Favorites don't mind new Stableford scoring format

STATELINE -- The first round of the 54-hole American Century Championship begins today at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course with the usual suspects believed to be the front runners to win the 14th annual event. But because of the new Stableford scoring system, there might be a new ACC champion taking home the $100,000 winner's check on Sunday.

At least the Stableford might trick the field of more than 70 sports and television stars into thinking that.

"I think it will do two or three things," said two-time defending champion Dan Quinn, a former Pittsburgh Penguins star. "It might give about 6-10 guys a chance to stay in the tournament until Sunday. There's a chance whoever has the regular best score might not win because there is such a premium on birdies. There could be four or five guys who we just don't know about. I'm not so sure...this format, it may help us more than the others. We'll see."

Five-time winner Rick Rhoden is the other player Quinn is talking about when he says 'us.' But right behind those two are 2000 champion Al Del Greco, '96 champion Billie Joe Tolliver and '98 champion Mario Lemieux. Also in contention for large chunks of the tournament's $500,000 purse are players like John Elway, Trent Dilfer, Jack Wagner and Mark Rypien, guys who can make as many birdies as Quinn and Rhode but tend to make more bogeys than them.

"It puts a premium on birdie," said Quinn, who also won in 1992. "Maybe it will set up a potential swing on Sunday, but I think whoever plays the best for 54 holes will still win. But what it will do is it may keep a lot more guys in the tournament. A lot of guys shoot themselves out of it with a 12 on a the first hole. It will be good for the tournament."

The Stableford is a scoring system that awards players points based on their score for a particular hole. Players will get 10 points for a double eagle, 8 points for a hole-in-one, 6 points for an eagle, 3 points for a birdie, 1 point for par, minus-1 for bogey and minus-2 for double bogey or higher. Players can pick up their ball once their next shot will be for triple bogey.

"It's going to be interesting," said Rhoden, the former major league pitcher who hasn't won since 1999. "It still comes down to who plays best. You can change the scoring however you want but the person who normally wins this is who plays best."

Some of the more popular celebrities competing this weekend are Mark McGwire, Michael Jordan, Charles Barkley, Jason Kidd, Marshall Faulk, Jerry Rice, talk show host Rush Limbaugh and former Saturday Night Live stars Dennis Miller and Kevin Nealon.

Rounds begin each day around 8:30 a.m. Daily admission is $20. Today's round will be broadcast tape delay on ESPN from 4:30-6:30 p.m. NBC will provide live coverage for Saturday's second round from 1-3 p.m., and for Sunday's final round from noon-3 p.m.

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