Jason Kidd playing in his sixth tourney, expectations haven’t increased
STATELINE — Jason Kidd, always looking out for others, passed judgment on a mystery person on Thursday after someone mentioned his official handicap was a 7.9.
“Somebody’s lying. Somebody messed up,” said Kidd, who led the Nets the NBA Finals this past season. I’ve gotta’ go find out who put that in.”
Regardless, as Kidd and more than 75 other celebrities begin first-round play today at the 13th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship, one thing is certain.
Rick Rhoden is once again the favorite.
“Well, I think Rhoden,” Kidd said when asked about his pre-tournament favorite during a press conference at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. “But there’s a lot of talented guys. (Al) Del Greco, (Dan) Quinn defending his title. You can’t count out the previous winner. I think those three guys are probably always the favorite, so you can’t go wrong with picking one of those guys.”
Caesar’s Tahoe, the official host hotel for the event, agrees.
Rhoden is listed as a 7-5 favorite, Quinn, who edged Rhoden last year, is a 2-1 favorite. Del Greco, who won two years ago, is listed at 9-2. Kidd, who honestly admitted his actual handicap is an 11, is 500-1, which makes some think even that number is off.
“Break 80. That’s our goal this week,” said Kidd, who said his best round ever is a 77.
Kidd, now playing in his sixth consecutive celebrity event in Tahoe, has improved his three-day total each year at Edgewood except last year, which was about the time of his shocking trade from Phoenix to New Jersey. Kidd said he knew the trade would happen but many believed a domestic dispute between Kidd and his prompted the trade.
Going into this year’s tournament, Kidd now has the experience of playing in the NBA Finals for the first time in his nine-year career. He was snubbed in the MVP voting after single-handedly turning around the Nets, one of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference in the 90s.
“I think it’s been a learning experience in the sense the understanding that things are not always as bad as they look or seem,” said Kidd, five time all-star point guard. “You’ve got to play out the cards that you’re dealt because you never what you’re holding. And to be dealt to New Jersey, it was easy to go the other way. The hard part was to stay positive and help your teammates believe that they could be winners. That was the fun part.”
Now comes the hardest part, teeing off today on No. 1 in the first round of the 54-hole tournament with a $500,000 purse. Kidd has never finished better than 57th place.
“That’s the hardest shot in golf,” Kidd said of the first tee. “After your name is announced, high expectations jump, especially not being in that situation, now knowing what to expect. I just try and relax and let it go.”
Just like the questions about his handicap.
Celebrity Golf Notebook
OUT OF LUCK/MONEY
Thursday’s Celebrity Golf Pro-Am was canceled because of inclement weather. The three amateurs who paid several thousand dollars to play with one celebrity in a foursome will not get their money back or get another chance to play a round of golf with a celebrity. The foursomes who teed off in the morning had their rounds postponed, then canceled. Foursomes with afternoon tee times were going to tee off at 3 p.m. in a shotgun start format lasting nine holes. That was nixed just after 2 p.m. when most of the celebrities left the golf course during the long weather delay.
BEARS’ LINEBACKER A ROOKIE AGAIN
Brian Urlacher, a first round draft pick of the Chicago Bears, is playing in his first American Century Celebrity Golf Championship. The two-time All Pro linebacker, who was fifth in last season’s MVP voting, isn’t sure why he’s in a celebrity golf tournament.
“I’m kind of star struck looking at all of these people,” said Urlacher, who has 313 tackles in his first two seasons in Chicago, a franchise best. “I guess I’m just happy to be here.”
FIREFIGHTER SCHOLARSHIPS RAISES OVER $23,000
The Uniformed Firefighters Scholarship Fund raised $23,230 Wednesday night in an effort to meet the scholarship goal of $150,000. A New York City Fire Department helmet and an original oil painting of a weary fireman in the World Trade Center wreckage raise the most money. The fire helmet went for $4,500 and the painting for $4,000.
Three New York firefighters are competing in the golf tournament amongst sports and entertainment celebrities, with their earnings being donated to the scholarship fund.
There are only 11 players who have played in every tournament in the 13-year history of the event. The best of the bunch is Dick Anderson, who won in 1994, and Jack Wagner, one of the favorites again this year. The biggest sport celebrity is John Elway, who has three top 10 finishes.
WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE
One lucky guy will earn the right today to putt for $10 million on Saturday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Brian Kearney, 33, Daniel Gulliver, 50, Tim Gray, 47, and Josh Smith, 26, will compete in a putt off this morning on the 18th green. The person who finishes closest to the hole will advance to Saturday’s final round, named the Beck’s Putt & Win $10 million Sweepstakes. Details of the final putt will be released today.