American Century Championship: Edgewood Tahoe greens talk of day 1

Long drive specialist Heather LeMaster acknowledges the crowd at Edgewood Tahoe Friday afternoon.

Long drive specialist Heather LeMaster acknowledges the crowd at Edgewood Tahoe Friday afternoon.

STATELINE — The big talk around the 27th annual American Century Championships was about the greens.

Every player questioned thought the course in general and greens in particular were in the best shape they had ever seen. The players said the winner will be determined by who solves the quickness and trickiness of the greens the best.

“They’re probably rolling at a 12,” said Jeremy Roenick. “I mean, the way that I saw them going, they’re rolling downhill at a 12. There’s no question that if you get aggressive, you’re going to pay for it.

“You have to just hit it and hope that it goes in, and I had a lot of those putts. I had a lot of birdie putts where normally I would really attack, that I became very tentative. And it’s hard to play a game like that.”

The two leaders, Jack Wagner and Mike Modano, liked the greens.

“I think they’ve gotten them where they should be,” said Wagner. “These greens should be this way. They shouldn’t be soft and spongy, which they usually are. Short putts are very difficult because there are a lot of footprints (when they are spongy). But these greens are firm.

“If you hit it right, it will stop. If you don’t, it will run out. I think it will separate good putters; good ball-strikers. You have to play more shots. You have to play about five or 10 yards short sometime to let the ball release up, as opposed to flying everything to the hole. So I think it’s a bit of a different golf course than we’ve ever played because the condition of the golf course is so good.”

Modano agreed.

“They’re the best I’ve seen them since I’ve been playing here,” Modano said. “They are so smooth and true. Like I said, we can pick our line and trust that it’s going to stay on that for the most part. The whole course is in great shape. The greens, they hold. They roll nice; they’re smooth, so they’re fast.”

The hard and fast conditions put a premium on approach shots. Placement is of the essence. Downhill putts? You don’t want any part of those.

THE FEMALE BRIGADE: Blair O’Neal, model/golfer, turned in the best score among the five female players, finishing with eight points. Lisa Cornwell, the Golf Channel personality, finished with five points. She strung together five straight pars in one stretch.

Heather LeMaster, the long-driving champ from Tuesday’s competition, also had five points. She had a birdie, four pars, 11 bogeys and one double-bogey. Former Olympic soccer star Abby Wambach finished minus-14 and NHL commentator Kathryn Tappen was minus-16.

NICE START: Veteran NBA point guard Deron Williams opened with 16 points. In his only previous ACC start, he finished with 16 total points, including 12 in the second round.

“It was fun out there,” Williams said. “I played decent. I think a lot of guys are going to pass me on the leaderboard before the day is done.”

Both of Williams’ birdies came on the front nine.

DEAD EVEN: The father-son battle between Dell and Steph Curry is even after the first round. Both golfers finished with a disappointing seven points.

Dell had 11 pars, two double-bogeys and five bogeys. Steph had nine pars, a double-bogey and eight bogeys.

THOUGHTS ON GREEN: Many players expressed sadness over the sudden passing of Dennis Green, who died of a heart attack at age 67. Green coached at Stanford, the Arizona Cardinals and the Minnesota Vikings.

“I loved playing against his teams when he got to be the head coach at Minnesota,” Sterling Sharpe said. “He was always super nice to me. I got a chance to work with him a couple of times in TV.

“Wow, that’s a big loss. He was a wonderful man. He’s one of those coaches I think I would have liked to have played for. I had two good ones in Lindy Infante and Mike Holmgren, but I would have liked to have played for Denny. Seemed like a very laid-back kind of guy. That’s a big loss.”


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