STATELINE, Nev. — There are two swings that stand out as being better than most this week at the American Century Championship. One is not surprising — Annika Sorenstam did win 89 times world-wide with her golf swing.
But the other is a hybrid swing of sorts, yet it’s remarkably pure. Military veteran Chad Pfeifer has developed his own swing since taking up golf after his left leg was amputated in Iraq. He wears a prosthetic, which alters the balance and the trajectory of a normal swing.
Yet Pfeifer is swinging better than nearly the entire field this week as he’s in second place after two rounds, four points away from leader and former NHL star Jeremy Roenick going into Sunday’s final round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
"I hit balls next to him this morning warming up. And his divot pattern, you can tell a good player," said former NFL quarterback Trent Dilfer. "We’ve all played with (PGA) tour guys, mini-tour guys and mid-amateur guys, there’s a difference."
Pfeifer, a rookie in the event, was a relatively unknown story until this week. And the story is a good one. His hope is to inspire people through golf and show anyone with or without a disability that golf can help people overcome challenges. He’s thankful for this platform but ultimately, he’s enjoying being an athlete just like all the other ones in the field this week.
He might not have a Super Bowl ring like former NFL quarterback John Elway, but he excelled in four sports growing up and played four years of college baseball. After his accident in Iraq, he thought sports would be taken away from him forever. It’s obvious this week that the club pro in Arizona is just as athletic as he always aspired to be.
There’s no handicap in [Chad Pfeifer]… I’m trying to hit the ball to make sure I stay up with Chad right now and I think that says a lot.
- Jeremy Roenick
"(Pro tennis player) Mardy (Fish) played with him yesterday and Mardy said at the bottom, ‘I always look at guys at the bottom of their swing, and at the bottom of his swing, it’s mini-tour quality at the bottom,’ " Dilfer said. "So he’s going to hit a lot of quality shots."
"Came out here, and like I said yesterday, if I could play my game, I felt that I could be up with the contenders," Pfeifer said. "I think I struggled with a few short putts today, but other than that, I mean, I’m happy with how it’s going."
Pfeifer will play in the same group Sunday as he did Saturday, with former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien and Roenick.
"The three of us can play again tomorrow, because I think today has been one of my more fun rounds that I’ve ever played in this tournament, for a lot of reasons," Roenick said. "I think watching Chad and what Mark said about the way that Chad hits the ball, it’s truly spectacular to watch him strike the ball. There’s no handicap in him . . . I’m trying to hit the ball to make sure I stay up with Chad right now and I think that says a lot."
Roenick being Roenick
Brash, crass, passionate and everything in between, Roenick has been called it all. So it should come as no surprise when he needed to issue an official apology Saturday after some antics on hole 14.
"I want to talk about the 14th hole, I did a little bird flip to a friend of mine," he said. "So anybody that saw that on television or whatever, I was having fun to a very, very good friend of mine who was giving me a lot of crap from the sidelines. So I apologize if anybody saw."
But Rypien says there was a story behind the finger. Yes, it was a friend of Roenick’s, but the friend is also a fan of Annika Sorenstam.
"The crap he gave him: He hit an unbelievable bunker shot to about four feet. Of course his buddy goes, ‘Annika hit it better than you did,’ " Rypien said.
Maybe he shouldn’t stick to his day job . . .
Hole 17 at Edgewood is the biggest party in golf. Fans are docked on party boats, imbibing on the beach and often engage athletes in games of catch. Josh Scobee, the Jacksonville Jaguars kicker, had been looking forward to the party on 17 since he signed up to play in the ACC and was excited to find that a group of fans had set up goal posts on the beach this year.
Scobee, the same kicker that once tied an NFL record for completing three 50-plus yard field goals in one game, missed from green. Fans took notice.
"Hey, Scobee, you missed. I don’t know if I should draft you this year," one yelled to him from the 18th grandstand.
Scobee fired back immediately and emphatically, "Hey, that goalpost was not regulation size!"
Scobee promised to nail one through the mini uprights Sunday, and every game during the upcoming season.