Wagner, Roenick share first-round ACC lead
STATELINE – Two celebrities that stargazers are accustomed to seeing win the American Century Championship aren’t topping the leader board Friday after the first round.
Retired NHL player Jeremy Roenick and actor Jack Wagner, the 2005 winner, grabbed a share of the opening-round lead in the electrical-storm interrupted event. Wagner and Roenick amassed 26 points in the modified Stableford-scoring format and hold a one-point lead over two-time champion Billy Joe Tolliver.
Eight-time champion Rick Rhoden and four-time winner Dan Quinn aren’t far off the pace. Quinn, who last won in 2004, is three points back at 23 and Rhoden, who is seeking an unprecedented third straight victory in the $600,000 event, is at 21.
“I could have shot a pretty low number. It is what it is,” said, Quinn, who bogeyed two of his final three holes.
Retired major league pitcher Mark Mulder and former NFL quarterback Vinny Testaverde share fourth place with 24 points. Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, one of the pretournament favorites, and Mark Rypien, the event’s first winner, are tied with Rhoden for seventh place.
First-round play was interrupted 48 minutes as a thunderstorm quickly passed through Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Roenick, a nine-time NHL All-Star in his 20 seasons, carded a 3-under 69 and was quite pleased with his start.
“Everything was going well for me,” Roenick said. “I hit every second shot really well. My putter was good.”
After retiring from hockey in 2009, Roenick has been able to spend more time on his golf game.
“That’s why I’m here because I haven’t had the distraction of that (dang) National Hockey League to take away from my golf game,” Roenick said.
“It’s a nice transition to get away from the sport that you kind of create yourself for and just to get out and enjoy it.”
Wagner, the only entertainment star to win the championship, rolled in five birdies during his opening round. But it wasn’t the birdie putts that kept his solid round in tact.
“One of those rounds where sometimes the best putt is a par put or bogey putt. Today my best putt was a par putt,” Wagner said.
Wagner sank a 10-foot par putt on the 12th hole and ran in a lengthy shot with his putter for par on the 17th hole.
The addition of Roenick, Testaverde and Mulder to a leader board usually reserved for few new contenders impressed Wagner.
“That’s great,” Wagner said. “The real test usually comes (Saturday), you know. Either the guys that are playing well continue to play well or some guys that may have played over their head seem to weed themselves out.”
John Elway, Dale Jarrett and John Smoltz are among the top-20 scorers. Elway, who has yet to win the title, is tied for 10th with 20 points, Jarrett is 18th with 17 points and Smoltz shares 19th place with 16. Michael Jordan has 13 points and is tied for 28th in the 82-player field.
Charles Barkley, who resorted to playing one-handed, is last with -28 points.
Tolliver was among a few groups that finished his round before the delay. He birdied three holes on the front nine, but three bogeys minimized the two birdies he scored on the back nine. His 2-under-par round of 70 includes a 370-yard drive on the 546-yard, par-5 16th hole.
“I’ve hit 370 before, but I’ve never hit a ball that solid,” Tolliver said. “And for a guy that doesn’t have a very good golf swing, it felt pretty good.”
Tolliver believes the mammoth drive impressed NBC Sports analyst Dottie Pepper, a 17-time LPGA Tour winner who was present when the former San Diego Chargers’ QB hit the shot.
“When you get a chance, just ask Dottie Pepper who is the longest hitter she’s ever seen. It’s gotta be me,” Tolliver said.
Wagner despises being referred to as the only nonathlete to win the championship in its 21-year history.
“I get a little disturbed by that because I do pushups, chin-ups,” Wagner said. “So when they say, ‘Nonathlete,’ are they talking about me?
“I’ve done shirtless scenes where I have to do pushups. It’s very athletic. I’m on TV.”
In the unique scoring format, players are awarded six points for a eagle, three points for a birdie, one point for a par, zero points for a bogey and minus two points for a double bogey.
The thunderstorm brought little rain, but loud thunder claps and several lightning strikes out on the course. Jonathan Ogden, who played offensive line for the Baltimore Ravens for 12 seasons, became quite uncomfortable when a lightning strike hit too close for comfort while he was on the 18th hole. At 6-foot-9, Ogden is the tallest player in the field. He dropped the driver in his hands, and soon after play was halted by tournament director Mike Milthorpe.
“I saw a flash and there was a boom at the same time,” said Ogden, who shrieked, according to his caddie Aaron Roques.
Tolliver, who has been struck by lightning before, said he felt uneasy over his final four holes.
“I was as nervous as could be from 15 in,” he said.
Tolliver said he and three friends were knocked over by lightning while playing basketball on an outdoor court while he was in high school in Lubbock, Texas.
“It got on us real quick. It struck the backboard and knocked about four of us to the ground. Ever since then, I’m like, ‘Hold on a minute.” I’m a little scared.”