Lowe had the high score, Fish snagged an eagle and a pop star struck out Friday during the first round of the American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Positively Tahoe sunny skies with light winds provided perfect scoring conditions on the lakeside, tree-lined layout as former big league pitcher Derek Lowe jumped out to a one-point lead over tennis star Mardy Fish, who finished his round in most impressive fashion. Meanwhile favorite Tony Romo is tied for 20th place.
The 28th annual ACC with a field of 89 celebrities and played under a modified Stableford scoring format, which rewards aggressive play more than it penalizes poor shots. The tournament is a pleasant mix of sun, fun, laughs, photo ops and, yes, even a little good golf. First-round leader and ex-Red Sox hurler Lowe toured the 17 holes, and one carnival (essentially the clown’s mouth) in a solid gross score of 70 for a total of 25 points. Lowe avoided any dreaded double bogey’s that result in minus 2 points, carding five birdies (worth 3 points) against only three bogies (worth 0 points).
One of the tournament favorites, Fish lurks just a point behind after an eagle (worth 6 points) at the 501 yard par-5 18th. Fish bombed his tee shot so far past playing competitors Jack Wagner (13 points) and two-time defending champion Mark Mulder (22 points) that you could have fit a Walmart between the two positions. Fish laughed it off in the post round press conference: “It must have hit a sprinkler head.”
But the rest of the field might not have been so amused considering Fish had only a 54 degree wedge left for his second shot from 105 yards. Fish likely would have had the lead but four-putted the 6th green for a double bogey. Disappointingly, he missed a rare opportunity in the press room to quote the legendary Seve Ballesteros, who, when asked about four-putting the 16th green at Augusta National in the ’88 Masters, said, “I miss, I miss, I miss, I make,” or so the legend goes.
Odds-on favorite Tony Romo, whose betting line moved all the way to 2-1 yesterday, had an absolutely dismal day despite a 6-point eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He notched just 14 points to sit tied for 20th. Like any good player after a poor round, Romo was out on the range trying to dig it out of the dirt while other participants were yucking it up and enjoying some cocktails in the hospitality tent, the poor shots of the day a distant memory.
There also are some unexpected challengers hovering near the perennial favorites. San Jose Sharks’ captain Joe Pavelski displayed some deft touch around the greens, matching Lowe’s gross 70 with three birdies and only one bogey for 23 points. Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers rode an eagle and three birdies to 22 points and sits tied for fourth with former Atlanta Braves ace John Smoltz.
The crowds on Friday were healthy but not overwhelming. The gallery for Golden State Warriors Steph Curry, Rodgers and Pavelski was the largest, but not so much you couldn’t get a good look. Curry had his moments but frankly his swing looked a little out of sorts on the range warming up. After holding it together for 11 holes, he went on a minus-6 run on holes 13-17 that left him at 13 points.
The group of pop star Justin Timberlake, actor Alfonso Ribeiro and NFL Hall of Famer Jerry Rice had the second-largest throng, which was treated to a nice round from Ribeiro, who with some solid play put up a mildly surprising 21 points. Timberlake also blew up on the back nine with double bogeys at 13, 15, 17 and 18. His frustration showed a little after holing out on 17 and then trying to toss the ball in the air and bat it out to the crowd at the water’s edge. He swung and missed on both tries. Despite not having the day he hoped, and with Ribeiro’s urging, they did pull out a “Carlton” duet to the sultry tones of Tom Jones blaring from the beachfront speakers, much to the delight of the sun-soaked revelers who arrived by watercraft and numbered a thousand or so.
Rounding out those to pay attention to are a pair of ladies. The Golf Channel’s Lisa Cornwell (a former college golf standout), and former Golf Channel Big Break contestant Blair O’Neal both sit tied for 10th with 18 points despite each having a double bogey. Bringing up the rear is the ever-popular Charles Barkley with minus 30 points, meaning one can easily surmise that his ball found his pants pocket more than it did the bottom of the cup, since once you reach double bogey on a hole you simply pick up.
Saturday will be a raucus party at the carnival 17th, with even bigger (and drunker) crowds at the water’s edge throwing God knows what at players as they make their way from tee to green to sign and throw back. It’s become a gauntlet of sorts and while all of the participants handle it well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if soon each were escorted by someone whose sole purpose was keeping an eye on all the debris hurled their way to protect them from injury.
- American Century Championship
Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course
Opening round Stableford scores
1 – Derek Lowe 25
2 – Mardy Fish 24
3 – Joe Pavelksi 23
4t – Mark Mulder 22
4t – Aaron Rodgers 22
4t – John Smoltz 22
7 – Alfonso Ribeiro 21
8t – Chad Peifer 19
8t – Mike Modano 19
10t – John Elway 18
10t – Lisa Cornwell 18
10t – Marshall Faulk 18
10t -Blair O’Neal 18
10t – Tim Wakefield 18
15t – Colt Ford 17
15t – Bret Saberhagen 17
20t – Tony Romo 14
20t – Mark Rypien 14
20t – Ray Allen 14
23t – Jack Wagner 13
23t- Stephen Curry 13
53t – Justin Timberlake 4