STATELINE, Nev. — The British Open Championship might have all of the golf world’s attention across the pond, but right at the edge of another pond-type body of water between Northern California and Nevada, there’s a different type of golf tournament commanding attention. The American Century Celebrity Golf Championship kicks off Friday morning at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course and some of sports and entertainment’s best (John Elway, Rick Rhoden, John Smoltz) and worst (Charles Barkley, Larry the Cable Guy) are in town for an anti-golf tournament of sorts.
You won’t see many typical golf fans in collard shirts and visors, but you might see girls in bikinis footballs being tossed from the greens to the beaches. Leave the tradition to the golfers at Royal Liverpool, here are three things to watch for in the more un-traditional golf tournament.
Friday’s pairings have a definite theme. There’s a super group of legends (Elway, Smoltz and Annika Sorenstam), the backs (Emmitt Smith, Jerome Bettis, Terrell Davis), the kickers and punters (Broncos’ Britton Colquitt, Jaguars’ Josh Scobee, Bears’ Robbie Gould) the NASCAR drivers, the baseball players, the actors — the list goes on.
There is an entire group of Vinces, as Vinny Del Negro, Vinny Testaverde and Vince Coleman will all play together in the first round. Bode Miller, David Wells and Jim McMahon have all been called the "bad boys" of their respective sports and Barkley, who thinks he is an amateur comedian, is paired with two actual comedians in Larry the Cable Guy and Kevin Nealon.
Once the scores are posted after the first round, the groups will get shuffled and completely random. There’s a very good chance that the former Vice President of the United States, Dan Quayle, could end up playing with Barkley at some point this weekend. One can only assume they will talk about Chuck’s political aspirations.
This tournament is typically highlighted by its fantastic weather. With a cool breeze coming off of the lake and favorable temperatures, the weather is never usually an issue.
Unseasonable humidity has hit the area and although the thunder storms so far have been brief, more of them are in the forecast. While a little rain isn’t enough to phase Sorenstam or Rhoden — the actual pros of the group — the same can’t be said for the others.
"A little rain in the air is always a good thing," Sorenstam said. "But hopefully it comes later and might soften up the greens a little bit."
To which Mark Rypien replied, "Is that good or bad?"
She advised him to carry an extra club. Lake Laimbeer, the water hazard that separates the driving range from the 18th green, might see more action than the shore of Lake Tahoe itself.
The dark horses
Chad Pfieffer only has one leg but he thinks he’s good enough to play on the PGA Tour. Stephen Curry is known for lighting up the basketball court but he lit up the leaderboard in last year’s American Century Championship and Scobee is already being touted for his golf swing.
Sorenstam is the clear favorite and the usual suspects, Billy Joe Tolliver, Rhoden and Rypien, are all in attendance this week but it might finally be the year that a new face steals the show.
Curry nearly did last year and Elway, with several top-10 and even a few second-place finishes in the event but never a win, has become the Phil Mickelson of the ACC.
Pfiefer is an Iraq War veteran that had his left leg amputated above the knee after running over an IED. A former college baseball player, he used sports to heal himself. He became hooked on golf and developed a technique that allowed him swing with a prosthetic leg and has made it his mission to go pro. He thinks he can do it, and he may be right: Pfiefer shot 3-under during his practice round earlier this week.