Editor’s note: American Century Championship announced Sunday that Natalie Gulbis had to withdraw from the tournament due to a family emergency.
A healthy Natalie Gulbis is ready to set the 2018 American Century Championship on fire in Lake Tahoe next month.
The LPGA star has overcome three back surgeries in the last five years and is once again at her championship form. Gulbis, 35, made her return to the women’s tour, where she won the 2017 Evian Masters to go along with a list of other accolades. Her performance has put her on the map as one of the circuit’s most popular players.
“It feels great to play without any pain,” Gulbis said. “I have sacrificed a lot to get here. Now I’m looking forward to competing and seeing what I’m truly capable of at this stage of my career. It’s going to be a lot of fun, but that spirit inside of me wants to give it my all out there.”
Gulbis started her professional golf career with a bang at 18, when she tied for third place in the LPGA final Qualifying Tournament in 2001. Gulbis has 37 Top 10 finishes and has earned an estimated sum of nearly $5 million over her 18-year career. She has appeared in five tournaments this year, missing three cuts and finishing 42nd in the HUGEL-JTBC LA Open, shooting a 68 on the final round of play.
“I’ve played golf all over the world, but Edgewood is one I always look forward to,” Gulbis said. “The elevation here makes you rethink your approach and I’m really excited to play off the energy these great fans have here. It makes you appreciate your love of the game.”
Dave Cudney, Harrah’s sports book director, Cudney has listed Gulbis at 10-1 odds, with former Major League pitcher Mark Mulder the favorite at 5-2.
Blair O’Neal, who played in a pair of LPGA events in 2011, tied for 12th at last year’s ACC. Annika Sorenstam, winner of 10 majors, competed in the ACC once, finishing in a tie for second in 2014.
The former Oakland A’s ace is swinging his way toward an unprecedented fourth consecutive title in celebrity golf’s premier event.
“A few holes on the back nine here bring me back to my playoff outings with Oakland,” Mulder said. “The energy lasts all 18 and I’m looking forward to competing against some old friends and new foes this year. I also try to connect with the people in attendance as much as possible. The event is nothing without them.”
Mulder racked up 103 career wins and 834 strikeouts to go along with two All-Star Game appearances with the A’s in 2003 and 2004. At Edgewood, Mulder has finished in the Top 10 each of the five past years. He also won the Diamond Resorts Invitational celebrity tournament in 2017.
“I try not to think about it much,” Mulder said. “The reality is that last year is in the past and I need to worry about the first shot on hole one and so on. That’s what brings me back here year after year.”
The American Century Championship continues to attract record attendance numbers with a packed lineup of superstar athletes and entertainers. The 29th annual tournament runs July 13-15.
– Isaiah Burrows
Football coaches break out from field, hit links at ACC.