EDGEWOOD TAHOE - Five years ago was the last time a non-sports celebrity tasted victory at the American Century Championship.
After Friday's opening round at Edgewood Tahoe, 2006 champ Jack Wagner looks to be in good shape if he wants to end his own drought.
He'll have to dodge a host of former NHL players to do it. Along with past champion Chris Chandler and 8-time champion Rick Rhoden, three of the top five are former NHL'ers led by Jeremy Roenick who rests five shots back, with Chandler, after an opening round 24.
"Hockey players make good golfers," Jeremy Roenick said. "If you look at the final of the top-ten in the tournament last year, I think we had five, maybe six hockey players in the top ten."
Roenick held a brief lead as he came into the clubhouse before Wagner posted seven points on his last four holes. It was that late charge on the back nine along with the way his round began that spurred his near first-round-record.
"I've never birdied ten and 11 which are now one and two, and I actually birdied them from 15 and 20-feet today," Wagner said. "So I made a couple of putts early. And when you can make a couple of putts early, it can really build your confidence for the whole day."
Roenick credited his round to some crisp ball striking and ability to avoid trouble on the back nine. The former NHL star strung together pars on holes 13 thru 17 before dropping a bomb of an eagle putt on 18 to come into the clubhouse with a 24. It's the same score Chandler goes into Saturday with after he fought back from bogey-bogey on five and six to finish par-birdie-par and put himself in position for a move going into the weekend.
"It was really solid all day hitting the ball," Chandler said. "I had a couple of four-five footers that wobbled a little bit and didn't go in the hole, but for the most part I was happy ... I hit the ball real solid."
Running down the top five it's Wagner (29), Roenick and Chandler (24), Mike Modano (20) and then Brett Hull, Romo and Rhoden at 19.
Another favorite by many was John Smoltz. The former all-star pitcher sits alone at 18 points followed by Vinny Del Negro, Bret Saberhagen and Vince Coleman who went out early and controlled the leader board before noon.
The leaders have their eyes on a couple of guys who they think, if they put it together, can make a Saturday charge.
"When you look at the guys like Rhoden, he can throw up 30. Then you look at a guy like Smoltz, he can throw up a big number and come back at you," Roenick said. "There are a lot of guys that are right there. Mike Modano is another guy. He's a couple of birdie putts away from sitting up here with us right now."
Friday's worst rounds
While the majority of the crowds spent the day following the likes of Michael Jordan (16), Wagner, Romo and other leaders, a host of fan-frenzy was circled around traditional favorites Charles Barkley and Ray Romano.
Jimmer Fredette, who arrived at Edgewood Tahoe just a half-day before teeing off Friday, shot one of the worst rounds of the day - tying Barkley with -30.
In the modified Stableford format, players are awarded one point for par, three for birdie, six for eagle, eight for hole-in-one and 10 for a double eagle.
Points are then subtracted for anything worse than a double bogey (-2). Bogeys are zero.
Actor Kevin Nealon - who golfed in the same threesome as Barkley - stroked a -29. Quarterbacks Matt Cassel (-24) and Trent Green (-23) had a couple of the worse rounds also.
A full rundown of first day results and Saturday pairings can be found on www.tahoecelebritygolf.com.