STATELINE — Four-time champion Billy Joe Tolliver, former quarterback for five NFL teams, is now the top choice of Harrah’s and Harveys Race & Sports Book to win the 26th-annual American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament that starts Friday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. He is listed at 7-2 to win the event over defending champion Mark Rypien and perennial contenders John Smoltz and John Elway at the event airing on NBC, NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel.
Rypien, the original favorite, is listed at 5-1 with Smoltz at 6-1 and eight-time champion Rick Rhoden at 7-1 for the 54-hole, Modified Stableford competition at Edgewood. Other prominent players and their odds to win include Jerry Rice (30-1), Aaron Rodgers, Steve Kerr and Justin Timberlake (40-1), Ray Allen, Greg Maddux and Blake Bortles (50-1), Jerome Bettis and Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (60-1), Roger Clemens, Emmitt Smith, Jared Allen, Alex Smith and Steve Spurrier (100-1) plus Shane Battier and Patrick Peterson at 1,000-1.
Among the favorites is a pair of distinguished military veterans in the field by virtue of their triumphs in the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Warrior Open for disabled American veterans. Corporal Chad Pfeifer, who lost his left leg in an IED explosion in Iraq, is listed at 10-1 after finishing fifth in the American Century Championship last year. Sergeant Major Rod Gorman, winner of the 2014 Warrior Open, who is 90 percent disabled in his right arm and hip due to bullet fragments, is listed at 12-1.
Pfeifer, on a sponsor exemption, competed in the Web.com Tour’s Albertsons Open last weekend in his hometown of Boise, Idaho, leading into the American Century Championship. He shot a 75 and 76 in the first two rounds before missing the cut.
The tournament favorites also include Jeremy Roenick, Mark Mulder, two-time champion Jack Wagner and Colt Ford, all listed at 8-1. Trent Dilfer is making his 17th appearance, and has 12-to-1 odds.
“As strong as Mark Rypien’s performance was last year, Tolliver has two wins in the last five tournaments and is a huge scoring threat on the par fives,” said Dave Cudney, Harrah’s and Harveys Race & Sports Book manager. “We’ve also moved Chad Pfeifer from 12-1 to 10-1 because of the level of competition he’s (experienced) on the Web.com Tour.”
Celebrated perennial long shot Charles Barkley was alone at 5000-to-1 odds with Ray Romano and Kevin Nealon at 2,000-1 and Larry The Cable Guy at 2,500-1. Barkley is okay with the long odds on the course, provided they are more favorable inside the casinos.
“The most important thing of the weekend is winning money at the blackjack table,” Barkley said last month. “I just want to make sure I have won money or didn’t lose money — that’s the key to my entire weekend at Lake Tahoe.”
The tournament airs Friday through Sunday on NBC Sports Group’s family of networks — NBC, NBC Sports Network and Golf Channel. For more information, visit www.tahoecelebritygolf.com, facebook.com/ltcelebritygolf or follow @ACChampionship on Twitter.