American Century Championship Notebook: Day 1

STATELINE, Nev. — Every year, some of the biggest names in sports and entertainment descend upon South Lake Tahoe for the American Century Championship. The celebrity golf tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course becomes a picturesque view of athleticism, shanked drives and lakeside mayhem.

It’s quite possibly the only place on earth you will see Charles Barkley high-fiving a sleeveless Larry the Cable Guy and Ray Romano repeatedly attempting to shoot a basketball into a hoop on the beach from the 17th green.  
 
Here is the best, the worst and the strangest after the first day of competition in the most prestigious and entertaining event in celebrity golf.
 
The unlikely leader
 
Former Pro Bowl quarterback Mark Rypien posted the best modified stableford score of day one with a +27, but it was Stephen Curry who stole the show with a +22 to tie for fourth.
 
“Holy smokes, where has my head been?” Rypien said. “Seriously? Curry?”
 
The Golden State Warriors guard made the turn at 2-over, but four birdies on a torrid back nine shot him up the leaderboard. Curry, who was a golfer at Charlotte Christian School High School in North Carolina, boasts a handicap around 5 or less and seemed as surprised as anyone about his position at the top, laughing when it was brought to his attention that he was tied with John Elway and Jeremy Roenick.
 
“This is weird talking about golf,” Curry said. “I found my tempo today, which was good. Didn’t hit too many bad shots. So if I can make it the same amount of points I did, maybe a few more, I should be all right.”
 
Curry last played at the event in 2010 and finished tied for 28th. What he failed to realize was that his reputation on the golf course preceded him. Miami Heat forward Shane Battier said before the event began that Curry was the player he most wanted to be paired with because of skills.
 
“He’s probably the baddest [guy] out there outside of LeBron,” Battier said. “So hopefully some of his mojo will rub off on me.”
 
Rypien, who won the inaugural event in 1990 and has eight top-10 finishes at Edgewood, is one of the favorites. Neighboring casino Harvey’s lists his odds of winning at 10-to-1, but he thinks Curry may have a better shot.
 
“That’s pretty impressive that he can get 22 points coming off the NBA season like a month ago,” Rypien said.

“For me, this is great because this is half the pressure I had before.”
 
Running back vs. running back
 
Los Angeles’ favorite former running back had somewhat of a disappointing day in Friday’s opening round. Hall of Fame Trojan Marcus Allen finished with just one point. The tournament regular opened up strong but said his legs got tired on the back nine. Following his round, Emmitt Smith asked Allen how much he finished with. Smith laughed and shook his head, telling Allen, “That’s better than no points!”
 
Allen then inquired about Smith’s total. And that’s when he stopped laughing.
 
“I think three,” Smith said.
 
It was actually -3, which in the modified stableford format puts him in the black.
 
It was not the best day for running backs.
 
Keep dreaming, Battier
 
Edgewood itself is a dream among golf courses, situated right at the edge of Lake Tahoe nestled amongst the Sierra Nevada. It’s no wonder Battier had a dream about the course. However, the dream wasn’t exactly what you’d think.
 
“I had a dream I had a scoreboard that looked like this one day. And it’s a bunch of 3s, with Steph Curry and Ray Allen. It says, ‘Threes are good on the golf course, too,’ ” Battier said.


He was presented with just that image and plans to use that as motivation this week.
 
However, his -10 on Day 1 doesn’t bode well.
 
“Dare to dream,” Battier said. “Dare to dream.”

The best of the worst
 
With Charles Barkley and his notoriously terrible swing out of the event this week, the question is who would finish last (typically where Barkley finishes). Elway picked a tournament rookie, comedian Larry the Cable Guy.
 
Right as the Denver Broncos great made the prediction, the comic striped one right down the middle of the fairway on hole 17.

Elway changed his tune and said he would most like to be paired with the comedian. But the prediction stood: Larry the Cable guy then dumped his approach into the water. His -32 has him on pace to finish last and far from being able to play with Elway, who is tied for fourth.