Tolliver leads Celebrity
STATELINE – Saturday was moving day at the American Century Championship, but none of the leaders could get the Ryder truck out of first gear.
Only one of the top 5 first-round leaders shot better in the second round, creating a leaderboard logjam led by Billy Joe Tolliver going into today’s final round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Tolliver, a retired quarterback, scored 22 points in the Stableford format to open a two-point edge over Dan Quinn, Mark Rypien and defending champion Rick Rhoden.
But first-round co-leader Tolliver looked as if he would run away with the tournament early in the second round. Tolliver exploited consecutive front-nine par 5s with a birdie and eagle, establishing a seven-point lead after four holes.
“We all putted the same … we didn’t make anything,” said Tolliver, who carries a 47-point total into the final 18 holes. “I putted for par exceptionally well. Right now, I’m chipping for birdie a heck of a lot better than I’m putting for birdie.”
The 1996 champion went birdieless after his fast start and a double bogey on No. 15 brought him back to the pack.
“I whaled a driver about 80 yards into the woods. It was pretty dark in there and I needed flashlights to see how far I was,” joked Tolliver about his errant drive on No. 15.
Quinn’s 1-over round of 73 would have dropped him further back under the old scoring format, but he was able to stay in contention because he only made one big mistake.
“I’m tickled to be where I am the way I played today,” said Quinn, who has won the $100,000 first prize two of the past three years. “I didn’t play very well, but I snuck in with a few birdies at the end.”
Quinn birdied four holes, including Nos. 16 and 18, but a double bogey on No. 13 kept him from at least a share of the lead. The three-time champ also missed a pair of two-foot putts and a three-footer.
After driving within 9-iron range of the green on the par-4, 434-yard 13th, Quinn pulled his second shot into the pines. His ball came to an unfortunate rest against a tree. After some indecision, Quinn elected to disregard the face of his club and hit the ball directly into the pine. The creative shot spun toward the hole, leaving Quinn with a manageable up-and-down for bogey and no damage done.
But his ensuing poor chip shot left Quinn with a 10-foot bogey putt that he ran by the hole.
“I thought I could get it away from the tree,” Quinn said. “I played hockey left-handed and I thought about doing that, but it looked like it probably was gonna go to the same place. I took a shot at trying to whack it and it actually came out all right. I should have gotten up and down and I could saved myself a couple of points.”
Rhoden, the six-time champion, drove the ball well but average execution on approach shots kept his birdie opportunities to a minimum.
“No one hit very many balls very close. I think I had four or five decent birdie putts all day,” said Rhoden, who made three birdies. “I made some nice par putts from five or six feet and that was it. Like Danny, I’m glad to be where I’m at.”
Rypien stirred some memories of his 1990 title – the tournament’s first year. The former Washington Redskins’ quarterback rolled in four birdies, but a pair of double bogeys prevented him from being the outright leader.
“Now, there really is a group of guys who can play and when (I won it) there was maybe a handful who could break par,” Rypien said. “I know my work is cut out every time I tee it up. I know these guys are better than I am, but it’s always great to be the underdog.”
Rypien credited his success this week to a new putter and course management.
“I switched to this two-ball putter in the second round at Elway’s tournament and I haven’t three-putted (until No. 12 Saturday),” said Rypien, who hasn’t finished in the top 20 in his three previous celebrity tour events this season. “I’m not a birdie machine, but I made some birdies and that helps.
“My ballstriking is as good as I can do and I’m not missing many greens. I’m putting the ball in play off the tee, hitting a lot of 2 and 3 irons and when you do that, you have a chance.”
Retired NHL goaltender Grant Fuhr made the biggest move, using a 25-point round to improve to sixth place – six behind Tolliver.
Eight-time Grand Slam tennis tournament winner Ivan Lendl stayed in contention for his first championship title with a “disappointing” score of 20.
“My round was very up and down,” said Lendl, who had two double bogeys that left him four points behind Tolliver. “I hit some skunky shots out there.”
Two of the biggest names entered – John Elway and Michael Jordan – kept their title hopes faintly alive. Elway is ninth, 10 points out of first, while Jordan moved up eight places to 12th with a 20-point round. Like Rypien, Jordan has struggled to recapture the success of his first championship. He took ninth in 1990 but hasn’t finished better than 18th since.
Round two notes: Under the old scoring format, Tolliver would lead Quinn and Rypien by three strokes, not two points. … Six-time gold medalist swimmer Amy Van Dyken and NFL Total Access Host Rich Eisen did their part to entertain fans despite their horrible golf games. Encouraged by spectators behind the ninth green, Van Dyken and Eisen did cartwheels on the green, with the former’s much more graceful. … Charles Barkley drew a smattering of boos on his final hole when he threw a club after his chip shot hung up on the fringe. After the temperamental Barkley missed a downhill putt, he pitched the ball up in the air and connected for a drive back down the fairway.