AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Rypien takes lead in heated celebrity golf tourney |

AMERICAN CENTURY CHAMPIONSHIP | Rypien takes lead in heated celebrity golf tourney

Adam Jensen

Joe Proudman / Tahoe Daily Tribune

After a Saturday round that saw at least a half dozen players get a taste of the American Century Championship lead, a late surge put former NFL quarterback Mark Rypien atop the celebrity golf tournament’s leaderboard.

Rypien rocketed to the top of the field late Saturday with a par, two birdies and an eagle in the last four holes.

“You do that here, you’re going to get some points and get yourself back into contention,” Rypien said about the self-described “Houdini act” that found him in prime position to win the tournament following a so-so round Friday.

The Stableford scoring system used by the tournament rewards golfers with points for pars and better. Players break even on a bogey and lose two points for double bogeys or worse.

The first shot of Rypien’s six-point eagle on the 546-yard, par-5 16th hole landed in a divot, but the former tournament champion recovered by hitting a hybrid within four feet of the hole. Former MLB pitcher and Rypien-round partner John Smoltz described the shot as “astonishing.”

Rypien racked up 43 points following 36 holes of the 54-hole tournament at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. Former NHL player and four-time celebrity golf tournament champion Dan Quinn held the second-place spot after Saturday’s action, trailing Rypien by three points. Retired MLB pitcher Mark Mulder, who came into Saturday’s round tied for first, is in third with a 38.

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Smoltz, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo and former Denver Broncos quarterback John Elway rounded out the top six in a three-way tie for fourth. Each had a score of 37.

Actor and last year’s tournament winner Jack Wagner, who was tired for first with Mulder after round one, fell to seventh with a total score of 36 following a disappointing second round.

But, with nine competitors within 10 points of the lead, the tournament championship remains up for grabs, according to several top performers. Elway said this year’s competition appears stronger than recent events, when leaders have run away with the tournament.

Smoltz, who tied for second with Romo, Elway and Wagner in 2010, said he was confident he can take home his first victory at the celebrity golf tournament if he can make slight improvements during Sunday’s pressure-packed final round.

“I think I have a chance to win, I just have to hit the shots I’ve hit in the practice rounds,” Smoltz said.

Taking advantage of Edgewood’s four par-5s and the eagle opportunities they present is critical to taking home the tournament’s $125,000 first place prize, Smoltz said.

“To me, that’s the key,” Smoltz said.

Quinn said he expects victory in this year’s tournament to come down to the last three holes.

“We’ll see what happens,” Quinn said. “I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.”

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