STATELINE, Nev. — Trent Dilfer is not a ballerina on the golf course. That much was made abundantly clear during the second round of the American Century Championship Saturday afternoon.
Lamenting the fact that the tournament that features some large athletes, his playing partner in Saturday’s second round felt the need to interrupt.
"When [the greens are] wet like this, it’s just you get in the afternoon, and we were talking about it, you can see where some running back or offensive lineman or NBA center put his heel and it’s right between you and the hole and you’ve got to somehow go, ‘Okay, I’m going to roll this through,’" Dilfer said.
"Do you think you’re a ballet dancer out there?" Wagner said, shaking his head.
But Dilfer, all 240 pounds of him, doesn’t need to be graceful on the golf course. He’s come close to winning the most prestigious event in celebrity golf more than a few times and as he enters Sunday’s final round just seven Stableford points away from clubhouse leader Jeremy Roenick, he’s hoping that this year is finally the year he wins.
"I think I know the mentality I’m going to have, I’ll be transparent. I’m willing to finish 12th to win it. I’m not going to go try to finish fourth or fifth, I’ve done that. Second, third – I’ve never won this thing," Dilfer said. "I’ve lost this tournament twice on the back nine… I had the lead going into the last nine both times. I learned from both of them that you have to take some chances. You have to be aggressive. You’ve got to be willing – you’ve got to be willing to make some bogeys in order to make some birdies or some eagles.
Golf is serious business for Dilfer and this tournament especially. He once told Golf Digest that, "Everything I do in golf is to prepare for that tournament." He knows his strengths and weaknesses and he knows how to use them to his advantage at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. He likes to self analyze and study the swings and putting motions of others.
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"I depend on making putts," he said. "I’d say Jack’s the best putter I’ve ever seen out here and I would consider myself the second best. On a day-in, day-out basis I make a lot of putts. I pride myself on it. I win tournaments because of how I putt, I win club championships because of how I putt. I depend on it.
"I don’t hit it that far. I have limitations. I have an arthritic knee and not very flexible. These guys are bombing it past me. I have to make 12â, 14âfoot putts to compete."
But putting can be a challenge when Jerome Bettis makes one on the hole in front of him and begins to jump up and down. The Bus on wet, soft greens isn’t ideal for Dilfer’s quest to win (although he admits it’s funny). But the real problem is his tendency to play conservative in a tournament that uses the Stableford format – a format that rewards aggressive play.
Dilfer is done playing conservative.
"I’m going to be hyperâaggressive tomorrow," he said. "I haven’t played the par 5s well enough. I’ve got to play them well. I’ve got to get an eagle, I’ve got to play them at least 4âunder tomorrow to have a chance and I haven’t done that in years past."
With or without the ballet slippers, Dilfer is playing for one place and one place only.