It’s a rocky ‘Rhoden’ for others at ACC |

It’s a rocky ‘Rhoden’ for others at ACC

Steve Yingling
Nevada Appeal News Service

STATELINE – Winning a celebrity championship became a lot tougher for the stars on Saturday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.

None other than Rick Rhoden rose to the top of the leader board, serving notice that he doesn’t want to go a fourth straight year without winning the American Century Championship.

The 54-year-old Rhoden scorched the front nine in 31 strokes on his way to a 5-under 67, giving him 29 second-round points and the overall lead with 51.

“I was just happy to be hitting irons on the club face the last nine holes (Friday). I couldn’t make good contact,” Rhoden said. “So I put one swing thought in my mind this morning and it seemed to work.”

Rhoden, however, missed a chance to separate himself from the field on the backside and break the 18-hole scoring mark of 65 that he shares with Al Del Greco. The former major league pitcher parred all nine of the incoming holes and for the second straight round left the back nine without a birdie.

“That was probably the best ball-striking round I’ve had in a month,” the six-time champion said. “I’m putting well, but I’m just not hitting enough balls close to the hole.

“From where I was (off the tee), I should have shot better on the back, but I hit shots like I was trying to hit them and didn’t get them close to the hole.”

Like he did in the first round, Rhoden tore up the front nine in round two. He birdied the second, third and eighth holes, but it was one stroke on the par-5 fourth that gave his round some legs. Rhoden’s 185-yard approach shot with a 6-iron landed within two feet of the pin – good enough for a kick-in eagle.

Not far of Rhoden’s sizzling pace was Hall of Fame goaltender Grant Fuhr with 48 points. Fuhr fired his second consecutive sub-par round (71) but missed an excellent chance to pull within a point of Rhoden on the final hole but three-putted from eight feet for par.

“My putting was a little suspect under the gun. I have goalie hands,” Fuhr explained. “On the back nine, I couldn’t find the speeds of the greens for some reason. I was left with a lot of 5- and 6-footers.”

A double bogey on the par-3 seventh hole prevented 1990 champion Mark Rypien from being second to Rhoden. Rypien made five birdies, shooting a 3-under 69 that left him tied for third with former NFL quarterback Chris Chandler with 47 points.

As Rypien was leaving the press room, he offered one final thought.

“It’s not a good sign when Rhoden says he’s feeling good,” he said.

Chandler’s best ACC finish was fourth place in 2005. He doesn’t mind needing to beat celebrity golf’s all-time winner to secure his first title today.

“He’s always there. In a way it’s kind of nice that you have to go out and win the tournament,” Chandler said. “He’s never gonna lay down, so you have to go out and play a very good round of golf to beat him.”

Still in contention are 49ers’ quarterback Trent Dilfer with 44 points and defending champion Jack Wagner with 42.

The second-best round of the day was crafted by Dallas’ Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo sank five birdies and made only one bogey to fire a 4-under 68. He is in ninth place, 11 points behind Rhoden.

Notes: Romo was also involved in one of the day’s biggest plays as he hooked up for a pass completion to Jerry Rice on the 17th tee … Brandi Chastain, the only female competitor in the 78-player field, has been enjoying her weekend. The former U.S. women’s soccer star said, “I’m doing really well and I’m having a lot of fun. The fans have been really appreciative. When asked if the tournament could benefit from more female participation, “I think everything would benefit from more female participation.” … Jim McMahon, formerly the Bears’ quarterback, won Friday’s long drive competition with a tee shot of 319 yards. Actor Lucas Black was runner-up with a 308-yard poke and retired NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver was third at 303 … Rhoden isn’t in favor of extending baseball’s All-Star break for the entire week. “They are gonna get their day out here. It won’t be long before John Smoltz and Greg Maddux get out here and play.”