Don’t be surprised if Mark Mulder shows up with a little extra motivation for the 30th American Century Championship, which will be contested on the shores of Lake Tahoe at the Edgewood golf course July 9-14.
Despite being the champion three times in a row from 2015-2017, the physically imposing but affable Mulder doesn’t appear in any of the tournament marketing and wasn’t the betting favorite last month at the local books.
“Mark Mulder? Oh, he’s washed up, man,” joked Charles Barkley said during a conference call.
[pullquote]I was more nervous playing in the PGA event than I was for my big-league debut.”[/pullquote]Mulder, who joined local media for an event preview at Edgewood in June, laughed at Sir Charles’ comment.
“I’m coming into this one more excited than I probably have been, since the very first invite I got into this tournament. I’m really looking forward to it, and I’m a little more hungry,” Mulder said.
The former Oakland Athletics hurler narrowly failed in his bid to win an impressive four-straight titles last year, falling to former NFL quarterback and now broadcaster Tony Romo by a scant three points in the modified stableford scoring format. Romo, and former Braves pitcher John Smoltz
were the early betting co-favorites at 3-1.
“It was disappointing, yes, but to be honest, I didn’t deserve to win. I was playing awful coming into the tournament.” Mulder added, “Tony played awesome, but I didn’t exactly do my part.”
A pair of occurrences motivated Mulder to do something he’s never really done in his life — take a golf lesson. The first was failing to win at the ACC and the second was an invite to compete in the season-opening PGA Tour stop in Napa, California, last October. The latter elicited a sense of urgency to fix the swing issues that kept him from defending.
“It was panic. I’m playing in a PGA Tour event, I have to fix this now” Mulder said.
As it turned out the adjustment, as you’d expect with a world-class athlete, was minor. “I have a tour swing in my head but when I see it on video I just cringe. They paired video of my swing next to Ernie Els and showed me how much more upright I was despite being two inches taller at 6-6 than Els. By standing too tall I couldn’t turn. I bent over a bit more and then I could turn. That’s basically all it was.”
With his golf swing fixed and confidence returned, Mark Mulder was ready to test his game against the world’s best, right? Well, kind of. Turns out he’s a lot like the rest of us if he’s not on a baseball diamond.
“I was more nervous playing in that event than I was for my big-league debut,” revealed Mulder. “Tuesday of that week was a practice day. I walk out to the practice range to warm up, and the range is packed. Not only with players, but with every club rep, ball rep, clothing rep, and agent since it’s the first event of the new season. I have never been more uncomfortable in my entire life.” Mulder continued, “I’m waiting for a practice spot to open up and I am PRAYING that it’s on the left side so all the other players will have their back to me. Sure as @$%& what opens first is on the far right. You can feel the eyeballs on you, and you know they’re all thinking OK, let’s see his action.’”
Did you have visions of Kevin Costner in the film “Tin Cup” hitting shanks the night before the US Open?” I asked. “Yeah, 100 percent.” A smiling Mulder replied. By the time the tournament started he settled down, got through the initial jitters and shot a respectable 75-74, missing the 36-hole cut.
“The setup is a lot harder than what we see here at the ACC. I finished third to last in a PGA Tour event, which isn’t second to last or last. I was thrilled.”
Mark Mulder and the American Century Championship by contrast is a comfortable fit. He knows the golf course and with three titles certainly knows how to play it. But more than that is the fact that he has his family with him for the tournament and then a Tahoe vacation when it’s over.
“The tournament ends on Sunday and we stay four or five days after. It’s an incredible place, we love it and we have so many memories here. Looking back though all the pictures of my kids and the activities through the years is what I remember, and that’s really cool.”
Mark Mulder hopes to make that vacation even more memorable by arriving with a sharper game than in 2018, and a fourth American Century Championship title.
The ACC is conducted using a modified Stableford scoring system, similar to what is used for Reno’s PGA Tour stop, only more aggressive point values. Points area awarded based on the score made on each hole, and in Stableford accumulating positive points is the goal.
Double Eagle +10 points
Hole in one +8 points
Eagle +6 points
Birdie +3 points
Par +1 point
Bogey 0 points
Double Bogey -2 points
Key scoring holes:
The Edgewood golf course’s par fives (Holes 3,4,16,18) are all reachable in two shots for the contenders. Birdies or eagles, which earn 3 and 6 points respectively are critical to rack up points in a format which rewards aggressive play.
Holes 1, 6, and 15 are short par 4s which also yield easier opportunities for birdie, and eagle for hyper-aggressive play.
Best spots for spectating:
The party is always on at the par-three 17th hole on the beach, but a few other spots are worthy as well.
The 15th tee box is a large area that affords spectating of players hitting approaches and putting on the 14th green as well as easy walks to the clubhouse and 18th hole. Players typically will have a wait on the short par four 15th, providing patrons with a long look at their favorite celebs and a chance for some fun antics while they wait to tee off.
If you don’t mind a good walk and want to be away from the hustle and bustle, the par four 6th tee box offers one of the prettiest holes on the course in addition to views back towards Tahoe and Mt Tallac across the lake.
Care less about golf and just want to gawk? The walk from the 17th green to the 18th tee for the players is a 100-yard chute. Celebs will often stop for photos, autographs, or just mingle along the way and every player in the field has to make the trek.
$20 per person Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday; $30 on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and are available at the entrance gate at Edgewood Tahoe. Special discounts at Raley’s, BelAir, Nob Hill stores ($17/$27 respectively; w/ $50 grocery purchase: $23 daily for Friday, Saturday andSunday, limit four)
- Admission is free for children 10 and younger when accompanied by a paying adult. Limit: 2.
- Free tickets for military: Active duty, reservists, National Guard, military retirees and veterans receive one complimentary ticket and one complimentary guest ticket each day of The American Century Championship Tuesday, July 9, through Sunday, July 14.
Parking near the course is extremely limited with a few spaces adjoining the course for very early arrivals. Carpooling, Uber/Lyft, cab rides (drop-off point near admission gate) are highly recommended.
Parking fees at adjacent casinos:
- Harrah’s & Harveys: $20 valet; $13 self; except Friday: $40/$25 at Harveys and $30/$20 Harrah’s
- MontBleu: $25 (receive coupon for $25 food, beverage & gaming value)
- Hard Rock $30 (receive coupon for $26+ minimum in food, beverage, gaming values). Handicap parking (limited spaces, suggest early arrival).
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