Tolliver flies like an eagle into the lead
Nevada Appeal News Service
STATELINE – One long putt can turn an average round into a good one in the Stableford scoring format.
A 25-foot uphill, eagle putt did just that for Billy Joe Tolliver in the first round of the American Century Championship on Friday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Following bogeys at the 16th and 17th holes, Tolliver was barely on the leader board. But the two-time ACC champion passed six players and gained the first-round lead by rolling in the eagle attempt on No. 18.
“You know, you get in the mode of you can’t win it today, but you can lose it. So you’re lagging it up there and I hit some awful putts today,” Tolliver said. “But you know, bogeyed 16 and 17, and kind of gets your blood running a little warm, and I just was fortunate and made an eagle on 18.”
Until the final hole, Tolliver’s up-and-down round included three birdies and three bogeys. With 26 points, Tolliver leads NHL Hall of Fame goalie Grant Fuhr and former NFL All-Pro receiver Sterling Sharpe by a point.
“I mean, I’m not Tiger Woods or anything. I know I’m going to have three or four bogeys a day. I’d rather them happen early than late, and I sure don’t want them happening on a par 5,” Tolliver said.
That bogey on 16 also cost Tolliver some points at home.
“You know, because my wife, the Big Mama, she’s the master of the obvious. She just called a little while ago and said, ‘Don’t bogey par 5s. You’ve got to get up early in the morning to get one past her.”
Tolliver, however, with a score of 2-under 70 wound up shooting the second-best round of the day. Fuhr fired a 69 that included four birdies and only one bogey.
But Fuhr missed a chance to go even lower, playing the four par 5s at 1-over par.
“I hit a lot of good shots today … played the par 5s terribly, but other than that, played 14 good holes,” Fuhr said.
Sharpe, also with 25 points, crafted a 2-under 70, making five birdies and three bogeys. The key weapon in his bag was the driver.
“I hit driver on every hole, so a lot of the par 4s I had 40, 50, 60 yards in,” he said. “If my driver goes, it’s like everybody’s putter. But if my driver doesn’t go, I have a great chance because of what I’m going to be playing from.”
Lurking three points behind Tolliver in fourth place with 23 points are three past and present NFL players – Trent Dilfer, Chris Chandler and Tommy Maddox. Dilfer, the 49ers’ backup quarterback, and Chandler shot 71s, while Maddox carded a 72.
Six-time champion Rick Rhoden was another point back in seventh place. Rhoden was on pace to threaten the 18-hole scoring record of 65 before a bogey on No. 9 ruined his momentum.
Rhoden birdied four of the first eight holes but didn’t make a single birdie on the back nine en route to a 73.
The biggest surprises of the day were the struggles of several of the top players in tournament history. Four-time champ Dan Quinn got off to a double bogey-bogey start. However, a birdie-birdie finish kept Quinn within striking range with 17 points.
Defending champion Jack Wagner started fast with three birdies on the front nine but an out-of-bounds tee ball on No. 9 sent the actor back into the pack.
“I had a little goofy driver run there for a while. I’m gonna go throw up and then I’m going to the range,” Wagner said. “Now, I definitely have to go low now, there’s no coasting.”
Wagner is tied for 10th place with Pierre Larouche and Al Del Greco with 18 points.
A five-point score left Michael Jordan well off the lead.
“I haven’t been playing that much golf, but it was fun being back and once again the fans were very supportive,” Jordan said.