STATELINE — A group of men chasing after a woman is not unusual at Lake Tahoe, but it will be a first this year at the American Century Championship, which includes Annika Sorenstam, an LPGA Hall of Fame member.
That is the consensus leading up to the 25th annual celebrity golf tournament July 18-20 at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Sorenstam opened as a 2-1 favorite at the Harrah’s Sports Book, but early betting pushed the odds Wednesday to 12 to 10, meaning a $12 wager on Sorenstam would win just $10 if she captured the title.
Sorenstam won 72 LPGA tournaments, including 10 majors, before retiring in 2008. What’s more, she’s had a home at Incline Village for several years, so playing at altitude should not hurt her game; in fact, it might give her an advantage. The key, of course, is how much golf she has played lately. Steve Schorr of the Harrah’s Sports Book said he was unable to find out. But he did know she just shot a 67 and 71 on Edgewood’s par 72 course.
“All I had was that she played this week,” Schorr said. “When we tried to investigate it, it’s really hard to get information. That’s what made it so hard to set the odds. So it’s just a conversation, and we kind of throw out a number to see how the betting comes. We threw out 2‑to‑1 because these guys are all pretty good golfers, and it was obviously too high.”
Rick Rhoden, who has won the tourney a record eight times, and Billy Joe Tolliver, a four-time champion including 2013, might have the best chance to beat Sorenstam.
“She’s not going to rattle like some of our guys the last day,” Rhoden said during a press conference Wednesday. “She’s probably got a better wedge game and a better short game than all of us.”
Schorr, however, said the men in the field, mostly retired football, baseball and hockey players, will be helped by the Stableford Format used since 2003, a scoring system in which a double bogey does no more damage than a triple bogey or higher. He also said the guys will be able to drive longer than Sorenstam, to which Tolliver guffawed.
“And of those guys, 90 percent of them don’t know how to get the ball out of the hole, which I’m sure will drive Annika crazy standing on the through line,” Tolliver said.
Professional pride is something else that favors Sorenstam, Rhoden said.
“Even though she hasn’t played, you know she’s going to show up here ready to play,” said the former big-league pitcher.“She’s not going to embarrass herself. So I expect her to play really good. But I think we’ve got some guys here that can, if we play good, some of our guys, it would be just like always. I don’t think anybody’s going to run away with it.”
A year ago the author of this article, who has covered this tournament since 1992, accurately predicted during a KTHO radio interview Billy Joe Tolliver would be victorious. We predict Tolliver, a former NFL quarterback, will finish second to Sorenstamthis year. He looks leaner than he’s ever been, and he said he’s stopped drinking.
“Over the years, I don’t need to be sober to get the drop on these dogs,” he said. “But now Annika is in this deal, I kind of have to maybe cut it back to a six‑pack.”
Tolliver was listed by the oddsmaker at 9-2 to win the tourney. Rhoden began at 5-1 but the line has moved to 7-1. Actor and former champion Jack Wagner and retired pitcher Mark Mulder also are 7-1. Jeremy Roenick, Mark Rypien and John Smoltz are all 10 to 1.
Occasionally, players slip under the radar of the bettors, which was the case with former champions Mario Lemieux and Al Del Greco. This year’s sleeper, Tolliver said, is Jacksonville Jaguars placekicker Josh Scobee.
“You media guys and gals, check out Josh Scobee, he’s the real deal,” Tolliver said. “He’s 10‑to‑1. Jump on it before (Schorr) changes it.”