San Jose Sharks forward Joe Pavelski leads after Friday’s opening round of the 2018 American Century Championship, as thousands of fans watched on a sun-baked day at Tahoe’s celebrity golf tournament.
Pavelski ended the day with 25 points on the Stableford scoring system — his best round in three trips to Edgewood Tahoe. Pavelski tallied five birdies and three bogies.
“I started to get hot on the back nine and it carried from there,” he said. “I found my groove and it was good to see the ball get in the hole. Overall, I just need to make some putts once I reach the green.”
Pavelski, at 20-1 odds, has good company with him both on the ice and the course. Former hockey legends Dan Quinn (five times) and Mario Lemieux (one time) had championship finishes in the tournament.
“The way you shoot the puck and hit the ball helps quite a bit,” he said. “But you still have to get out and practice around the greens and seeing some reads. The biggest thing we have in our favor is the offseason, so we spend extra time on the course.”
Former Super Bowl XXXV champion and ESPN analyst Trent Dilfer finished in second place with 24 points. Recovering from a successful back surgery, Dilfer said he feels better than ever and ready to compete.
“When you don’t have chronic pain for five to seven years, it makes the experience a lot more enjoyable,” he said. “But I had lots of fun out there competing with the guys and I’m happy with my performance for the first day.”
Mark Rypien and John Smoltz are tied for third with 21 points. Both had trouble adjusting to the quick paced, downhill greens.
“The greens were really quick out there today,” Rypien said. “With shots like that, you have to be really receptive now that you’ve got 15-foot downhill putts. Then you become defensive once you reach the green instead of trying to go for birdies.”
“I still never putt good here. Never have.” Smoltz added. “And I gotta find a way to quit being so nervous on downhill eagle putts and put them in the hole. I found the greens confusing because they had some deceptive speed to them.”
A confident Steph Curry is scary news for the rest of the competition. The two-time MVP is finding his glow on Lake Tahoe’s shores, tied for eighth with 18 points, the most he had on the first day in five previous appearances.
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, Denver Broncos quarterback Case Keenum and actor Alfonso Ribeiro also have 18 points.
Curry hopes to have an even better Day 2.
“My confidence is pretty high right now,” he said. “I thought I did a solid job of moving my hips and hitting the ball pretty well. There’s lots of guys, including myself, who are around five points of the lead so anything can happen this weekend.”
Former big league pitcher Mark Mulder, who won the ACC crown for the last three years, collected 16 points in the opening round and is tied for 16th with quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Carson Palmer
“I was very shocked to see that (Mulder) was sitting at four after 15,” Rypien said. “He will probably have a big weekend. You never know with him. He can still play.”
Mulder finished eagle-birdie-birdie worth 12 points on the last three holes.
A cozy 76 degrees failed to cool down All-Pro wide receiver Adam Thielen. He tossed his ball in a nearby stream after three putting hole 14. He placed 19th with 15 points.
The ACC continues to attract record attendance numbers with a packed lineup of superstar athletes and entertainers. The ACC tournament will continue Saturday.
— Isaiah Burrows
For leaderboard and Saturday’s tee times go to AmericanCenturyChampionship.com/