JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN&WR-->Condoleezza Rice, the popular secretary of state oft-touted as White House timber, has taken up the sport of presidents-golf. "She's got the bug," says a close aide. Now before you take this as evidence she's running and slap a Condi for President sticker on your car's bumper, we're reliably told that she took up the sport for fun. "It's one more mountain to climb," says a friend.
Seems she caught that bug about three years ago when Stanford pal Stephen Krasner, her former policy adviser, urged Condi to hit the greens. It started with a few lessons in Washington, blossoming into a love affair. Now we didn't know about this because Rice chooses to play out of the public eye with friends, like on the three golf courses at Andrews Air Force Base. She even carries her clubs on diplomatic trips to Asia so that she can get in a few holes during long layovers in Hawaii. How good is she? Her aide jokes that her handicap is "probably classified," but we're told that she didn't embarrass herself in 2006 when playing with teen phenom Michelle Wie.
Rice wants to take her passion for the sport to another level. Like helping Tiger Woods, who hosted last week's pro tourney in Washington, use golf to push major causes. "She would very much like to do what she can to raise awareness of golf as a sport," says her aide.