Mardy Fish is on the cusp of making a little history.
Fish, the former tennis star, is attempting to become the first left-handed champion in the 27-year history of the American Century Championship.
He’s two-thirds of the way there after collecting an ACC-best 28 points Saturday afternoon en route to a 36-hole total of 50 and a two-point lead after two rounds at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Fish leads first-round leader and two-time champion Jack Wagner (48) by two points. Mike Modano and defending champ Mark Mulder are tied for third with 45 points. Brian Urlacher, who had a 22-point day, sits in fifth at 41. Jeremy Roenick, who has back-to-back 20s, is sixth with 40 points. Oliver Hudson is seventh at 37 points, Eric Gagne is eighth at 35, and Alfonso Ribeiro, Lucas Black and Joe Pavelski are tied for ninth at 34.
Of Fish’s 28 points, 12 came on the par-5s where he recorded birdies.
“I’ll play exactly how I played today,” he said after his round. “I don’t really feel like I was in too much trouble, minus the drive on No. 11. I wasn’t really in too much trouble today and had a lot of putts at birdie. So just give yourself chances every hole. And if they fall, they fall. And hopefully they fall.
“Just avoid the big number and make as many birdies as you can. That’s really the name of the game.”
Fish, after bogeying the opening hole, parred No. 2 and then birdied both of the par-5s on the front, Nos. 3 and 4. He recorded four straight pars before parring No. 9.
He birdied 10, 13, 16 and 18 on the back nine to finish with seven birdies and three bogeys.
Wagner got off to a slow start, going bogey-par-bogey. He birdied two of the next six holes. He played pretty much par golf on the back nine, registering a birdie on the par-5 16th.
“I started each day out kind of shaky, “ Wagner said. “I just made a couple of bad swings early and made a few bogeys, and yesterday I made some pretty incredible par putt saves. That kind of got my round catapulted and really moving forward. Today was more of like one of those hang-on days. I never hit it really close.
“My ball-striking was pretty average. I got up-and-down a lot of times. I just basically had a three bogey, three-birdie day. I shot even par. So when you have one of those days, you just try to grind it out and stay in the hunt. So that’s what today was for me. Yesterday it was a lot easier round of golf for me once I got past a few par putts.”
Modano, who had a 21-point day like Wagner, was blasé about his round. He had three birdies and three bogeys. He said he’s going to let loose today.
“Boy, I guess it was a lot like yesterday, just kind of hodgepodge around and made some putts and made a couple of birdies,” Modano said. “Nothing was too consistent. But the putter’s been really good for me. I was seeing good lines and trusting them.
“So we might as well go after it and have fun and let it loose. You have another 364 days before you’re here again. So let loose, don’t think too much about it. And when you start grinding and thinking about it and then bad things happen.”
Mulder trailed by five, which was in the same position he was last year when he won the tournament with 82 points. He recorded three birdies and two bogeys.
“For me, today was kind of a grind,” said the former St. Louis and Oakland pitcher. “I thought I hit the ball outstanding until I had two bad tee shots on 14 and 15. But for the most part I hit the ball so good and had a ton of 10-footers for birdie and made nothing.
“Honestly, I could have put up a really good number today had I not putted the way that I did, like an amateur. But that’s what we are, and I was trying to stay patient the whole day. I kept telling my caddie that same thing, because sometimes I get a little frustrated when I hit it close like that and don’t make anything. It could have been a very good day, but overall, I’m not upset with it.”
The big surprise thus far is the play of Urlacher, who scored 19 on the first day and 22 on Saturday. He cites time as the key to his improvement.
“Just have more time,” he said. “My kids keep me pretty busy. When I’m not with them or they’re at school, I’m out playing golf. I took some lessons this year for the first time. It helped obviously.
“It was fun today. I made some putts like I haven’t done. Yesterday (Friday) I didn’t make any. Only had one three-putt today. Had four yesterday. That helps the score always.”
Roenick played well until the 15th when he doubled the par-4 hole.
“It was a good round for me today,” he said. “I got to 15 and made a terrible double, and I don’t know how it happened. But it was really my only bad hole of the day. I was pretty consistent all the way around, whether it was wedges, drivers, whatever the case may be. But that double on 15, it really has me kind of perplexed.”
Roenick knows a 10-point deficit is nothing in this format. A run of birdies can cut into a lead in a hurry.
The final grouping is interesting. Fish and Wagner both belong to the Bel-Air Country Club, and they play a lot of golf together, often competing for the club championship.
Will it be friendly or intense?
“We’re sort of friendly when we play and sort of not,” Wagner said. “Listen, I’ve been around professional athletes enough, especially Mardy. He’s a solo player. He didn’t have a team when he played.
“So my experience with professional athletes, especially in golf, is these guys are not out there to make friends. I mean, we’ll talk and have some laughs, but they’re all very cutthroat at what they do.
“But no, he’d love to step on my neck just like I’d like to step on his, and Mark’s and Modano’s.”