Mark Rypien roars to American Century Championship win
STATELINE — It was a finish for the ages.
Mark Rypien finished eagle-birdie-birdie for 12 points to grab the weather-delayed 25th annual American Century Championship Sunday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
The event was delayed approximately three hours because of rain, thunder and lightning in the area, which knocked out power in Carson City, Douglas County and areas of Lake Tahoe.
Rypien, who won $125,000, finished with 76 points thanks to a record-tying 33 points in the final round. He tied Billy Joe Tolliver’s mark in 2010. His 33 points is a new final-round record, eclipsing the 31 by Chris Chandler in 2007.
Jeremy Roenick and Annika Sorenstam tied for second with 65 points. Jack Wagner was fourth with 64 points and Army veteran Chad Pfeifer was fifth with 61. John Smoltz was sixth at 60 followed by Eric Gagne (58), Jerry Rice and Mark Mulder (57) and defending champ Billy Joe Tolliver rounded out the top 10 with 56.
The win was Rypien’s second ACC victory. He won the initial tournament in 1990 when it was a stroke play event. Suffice to say he is like a fine wine, improving with age. It also wiped out the 2013 event when he lost in a playoff to Billy Joe Tolliver.
“I stretched and took a nap,” Rypien said when asked what he did during the delay. “We had no idea what was going. I kind of had an advantage (with the weather). I’m used to playing in inclement weather. “
Rypien said he was inspired over the last couple of days, and one of the reasons was Pfeifer’s presence.
“We’re allowed to do things like this because of guys like Chad. He’s a great soldier and a great man. It was fun to see him play.”
When the horn sounded and the players were brought in, Rypien had just uncorked a monster 333-yard drive. He pounded a 6-iron to about 15 feet and dropped the putt in for an eagle worth six points. The shot snapped a 64-all tie with Roenick, who birdied the hole thanks to a nice chip.
“It had gotten cold, and the ball wasn’t carrying,” Rypien said. “I was thinking about hitting a 5-iron. I had a lot of juice and hit it below the hole. I got a good read from Jeremy’s chip broke a cup on the left.”
If that shot didn’t beat Roenick, the next one did.
With No. 17 deserted of almost all fans because of the delay, Rypien stepped up and popped an 8-iron about 6 feet from the cup, and Roenick hit a line drive that was left and short of the green.
Roenick chipped across the green onto the short grass behind the green. He needed to sink the chip to keep some pressure on Rypien, but he was off the mark and settled for a bogey and no points. Rypien drained his birdie putt to take a 73-67 lead going into the par-5 18th.
It was going to take a breakdown on Rypien’s part and an eagle by Roenick to spoil Rypien’s coronation.
Rypien found a tree with his tee shot, but the ball bounced into the fairway.
“I hate 18,” he said in the media room. “I hope lightning knocks those trees down.”
Rypien laid up, chipped on and drained a birdie putt to finish with a 5-under-par 67.
Rypien, who is good friends with Roenick, felt that Roenick might have lost the competitive edge after the delay.
“I felt bad for Jeremy,” Rypien said. “He played well all week long.”
Roenick had two birdies, a double-bogey, on No. 18, and six bogeys. He managed just 17 points on the day. He was unavailable for comment after the round.
Sorenstam said she had a lot of fun, but stopped short of saying she would return next year even though NBC, according to sources, has already extended an invitation.
“It was a lot more fun than I expected it would be,” Sorenstam said. “I felt so welcomed by all the guys. Next year, if I come back I’ll be better prepared.”
Sorenstam said after Saturday’s round that she would be shooting at pins on Sunday, and she kept her word.
She birdied the first two holes, sinking putts of 8 and 15-feet, respectively. She parred the next two holes, both par-5s. On No. 3, she lipped out a birdie putt and on No. 4, she hit a 3-wood into a fairway bunker, and then blasted her shot into the greenside bunker. She almost holed out her birdie shot from the sand. She tapped in a 3-footer to pick up another point to get to 50.
“I was aggressive on No. 4 (Saturday), and I wanted to stay aggressive,” Sorenstam said. “I was 215 (to the green) or I lay up with a 6-iron. I’m chasing and I can’t lay up. Unfortunately I pulled my 3-wood.”
The par barrage continued, as she picked up single points at Nos. 5, 6, 7 and 8. She ended the front side with a bogey at 9.
After a two-putt par at No. 10, she birdied the 315-yard par-4 11th to move to 58. She added another birdie on No. 13 when she knocked her approach shot close on No. 13 to get to 61, and then parred No. 14 for 62.
Two bad shots on No. 15 cost her an opportunity to add to her point total. Her approach shot on the 392-yard 15th landed in the bunker guarding the front of the green. Sorenstam flew the green with her bunker shot, chipped to 5-feet and made bogey.
“That was a bad hole,” she said. “It was a bad second shot and a bad third shot, but a good 5.”
Pfeifer, who was in second place at the start of the day, lost two points when he double-bogeyed No.2. He bounced back with birdies at Nos. 3 and 4, but three bogeys over the next five holes put him six points behind Roenick and three behind Rypien at the turn.
He started the back nine with four straight pars, posted a bogey on No. 14 and posted pars the rest of the way.
“It was tough keeping up with Mark and Jeremy,” Pfeifer said. “It was great to be out here. I enjoyed watching great golf. It was just amazing. I had a wonderful time.
NOTES: Danica Patrick, who dates Ricky Stenhouse Jr., got some face time on the NBC broadcast … George Whittell High School student Melissa Petty was announced as the recipient for the sixth annual Gene Upshaw Scholarship Award. Petty’s essay about her hard work in the classroom, her sports, her faith and goodwill helped secure the scholarship valued at $5,000.