Michael Phelps joined the celebrity golf lineup this week, but Roger Clemens and possibly Michael Jordan are out.
Jordan’s manager and spokeswoman Estee Portnoy said Jordan cannot make the celebrity tournament this year due to schedule conflicts. Tournament officials were unable to confirm the change Tuesday afternoon. The 24th annual American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course is scheduled to take place July 16-21.
Clemens, a two-time World Series Champion and 11-time All-Star, was briefly scheduled to make his American Century Championship debut, but canceled for personal reasons.
Jordan and Clemens aside, the celebrity tournament is still packed with big names like Charles Barkley, Aaron Rodgers, Stephen Curry, John Elway, Bode Miller, Ray Romano, Larry the Cable Guy, Jerry Rice, Brian Urlacher and J.R. Smith.
Phelps, the 18-time Olympic gold medalist swimmer, will join the field of 80 sports legends and entertainment celebrities vying for the $125,000 winner’s share of the $600,000 purse next month.
One of those sports legends will be Warriors’ basketball star Stephen Curry. With the golf tournament one month away, Curry took a moment to talk about his golf game and recent NBA headlines during a conference call at Edgewood on Tuesday.
Curry’s golf game
The Warriors’ basketball star usually doesn’t log a ton of time on the links, but Curry has proven he’s not to be underestimated in the golf tournament.
“I just go on the range and try to get into a groove and a rhythm,” Curry said. “I have watched shows like Hank Haney Project and all the other shows on the Golf Channel and try to pick up some information on how to get better.”
With 40/1 odds on his game, Curry has obviously picked up enough game to be viewed as a significant threat in the upcoming tournament.
“Obviously the basketball is a lot more comfortable in my hands… But golf always has a special place for me.”
Maybe that’s because it was Curry’s dad who taught him how to golf back in the day.
“My dad started playing, I think after his third year in the league, and he used to take me out in the summertime, and I’d just chip and putt as a little kid coming up.”
Curry kept chipping away at the sport and was soon good enough to give his pops a run for the money.
“My favorite memory of golf is just beating my dad for the first time. It was on his birthday, which kind of sucked for him,” Curry said. “I think I was 13 at the time. I know I shot somewhere in the 70s and finally beat him for the first time, so that was a big moment for me as a kid.
That wasn’t a good birthday for him. Looking back, it was our family vacation in Myrtle Beach, and I don’t think he expected it to go down like that, but I’m sure it was a cool moment for him in retrospect.”
Curry makes sure to remind his dad of the victory every year when his family vacations and plays the same course.
After beating Dad at age 13, Curry moved on to high school golf.
“I actually played on the golf team in high school for three years, mostly to get out of schoolwork,” Curry joked.
Perhaps some of that basketball skill was transferable to the golf course. Curry credits his hand eye coordination to his short game, which he considers the best part of his game.
“I shoot a lot of threes, so got to have some balance and touch when you’re doing that, so maybe that translates somehow,” Curry said. “Just trying to have some mental focus and concentration and toughness when you’re out there on the course and on the court.”
Curry calls Spurs
Maybe it sounds counter intuitive, but Curry wouldn’t mind seeing the Spurs do well in the upcoming NBA finals.
“Just like in college when we made it to the Elite Eight and lost to Kansas, I wanted to lose to the eventual champion, and that’s what happened then and hopefully it happens this year,” Curry said. “So you can say that the champs got the best of you and you’ll go at them next year.”
Either way, the impending matchup will go the distance. Curry predicts a seven-game series.
“I don’t know if the Heat have an answer for Tim Duncan in the post, and I don’t know if the Spurs have an answer for LeBron, just like the rest of the league,” Curry said. “So it’s going to be which one of those two I think plays the most consistent over the course of the series.”
The Spurs are deep and they move the ball well, making most defenses ineffective no matter how well they rotate or talk on the defensive end, Curry said.
“But the Big Three, when they play, when they play well, they are almost impossible to beat. So I see it going seven, and I see the Spurs winning in seven on the road.”
Curry on Malone’s move
The Warriors’ guard suspects Michael Malone, who spent the last two years as part of the Golden State coaching staff, will seamlessly transition into his new role as Kings head coach.
“He knows the game well, and the way that he approaches day to day with the X’s and O’s of the game, I think he’ll acclimate really well to being that head guy,” Curry said.
Malone’s success will all come down to getting the players behind him and getting the right roster to accentuate his style of play. What that style of play is remains to be seen, Curry said, since he’s not sure how much influence Malone had while working under Warriors head coach Mark Jackson.
When it comes to court time, however, Curry said Malone is strictly business and will handle some of the bigger personalities, like DeMarcus Cousins, just fine.
“I don’t think he’ll accept any kind of drama on his team, because there’s a task at hand,” Curry said. “I’m sure that I have conversations to see what to expect with each other.”
“DeMarcus is one of the main guys on the team so you have to make sure that he’s on the same page as the head coach, so I’m sure they will work that out and they won’t waste any time in practice and especially in games to continue to get better. Especially DeMarcus, he’s a really young guy, so this is an important time for him.”
Sticking with the Warriors
Despite the injuries the Warriors endured at the end of the season, and a playoff run cut short, Curry can’t see himself playing for any other team, which explains why he signed a 4-year, $44-million extension last month.
“I know not many players play their whole career in one city with one team, but I don’t see a better place to play basketball in front of the fans that we have, and obviously we have an opportunity to build on the foundation and success that we had this year,” Curry said, “and I want to be a part of that and be a leader. It’s somewhere that I want to finish my career and hopefully that works out.”
Stephen might not be the only Curry in the NBA for long. Brother Seth Curry showed he has NBA-worthy during his time at Duke University. Last season, he shot .438 from the three-point range and boasted a .469 field goal percentage that helped carry Duke to the Regional Finals.
“I know he’ll be in the training camp and he’ll have an opportunity to make a team and not only make a team, but help a team,” Curry said. “He’s a veteran college player that’s been through a lot of experiences, and basketball IQ will hopefully take him a long way in the first step. We’ll just have to see where he ends up.”
On not making the All-Star team…
“That was a difficult situation. Obviously I played well the first half of the season before the voting, and it was nice to hear the support from so many fans and teammates and other players in the League, and also analysts, legends that watch the game on a daily basis that think I should have made it,” Curry said. “So that was cool enough, and it is a sense of motivation for me over the summer to get back to that level and even play better so that hopefully there’s no question next year.”
On his interaction with Kenneth Faried…
“It was a weird situation, when you’re minding your business going down the lane and you get elbowed. It did look like he tripped me, but like I said, you can’t get into those mini games. I’m sure if I would have let that get under my skin, he would have won. So just got to take it in stride and keep moving.”
On the physical abuse he took this season…
“You’ve just got to embrace it, and I’m going to continue to work in the off season to get better, get stronger, so I can’t make it through another season playing the minutes I need to play and the way that I play. I embrace that challenge and that style of play.
It’s fun for me knowing that, I make people uncomfortable on the floor and I’m going to try to get under your skin somehow, some way. Just go out there and play and not worry about that. I’m going to try to get to the free throw line a lot more next year so hopefully use that against them and become more efficient on the court.
But there’s nothing you can do to avoid physical play, especially when you get to the setting where that was highlighted the most.”