For the first time in its 25-year history, the favorite to win the annual celebrity golf tournament at Lake Tahoe is a golfer.
Annika Sorenstam was listed at 2-1 atop the odds posted Monday at Harrah’s/Harveys Lake Tahoe Race & Sports Book.
Defending champ and four-time winner Billy Joe Tolliver was 9-2, followed by eight-time champ Rick Rhoden at 5-1. Charles Barkley is the longest longshot at 5,000-1.
It’s the first time any past or present player from the PGA or LPGA tour has played in the American Century Celebrity Golf Championship set for July 18-20 at Edgewood Golf Course.
Rhoden, the ex-major league pitcher, has qualified for the U.S. Senior Open and has three career top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour. But he’s best known as an all-star for the Dodgers, Pirates and Yankees.
“Annika Sorenstam is arguably the greatest woman golfer in history,” casino games manager Steve Schorr said Monday, the day the odds were posted at the hotel-casino sports book across the street from the golf course at Stateline.
“This was also Annika’s full-time profession and she’s used to competitive pressure,” Schorr said. “For the other celebrities, golf is not their original occupation. Plus, she’s competed against the men before.”
It’s been 11 years since Sorenstam played on the PGA Tour at Colonial, the first woman to compete with the men since 1945. She won 89 international tournaments, 10 major championships and more than $22 million before she retired in 2008.
Sorenstam, 43, will play from the same tees as the men at the 6,878-yard layout that meanders through towering pine trees on the shores of Lake Tahoe. She has a summer home at Tahoe and has watched recent tournaments from a boat anchored off the Par 3 17th.
“I don’t compete anymore so it wasn’t necessarily on my radar when they approached me,” Sorenstam said when she announced her debut in the tournament last month.
The 54-hole tournament uses a modified Stableford scoring system that puts a premium on birdies and eagles.
“This format is very different than an LPGA championship, but when I get on the course I’m competitive, so the competitive juices are going to be flowing,” Sorenstam said.
“I do know that in the past that from the fields I have watched, these celebrities can play. Some of them hit the ball a very long way. I know I can’t keep up with some of those guys. I’m going to go for fairways and greens.”
Two-time winner and actor Jack Wagner, the only non-pro athlete to win a title, is listed at 7-1 odds along with Mark Mulder and Jeremy Roenick. Mark Rypien, who won the inaugural tourney in 1990, and John Smoltz are 8-1.
Stephen Curry is 10-1, and John Elway and Trent Dilfer 12-1.