Prominent stars and sports legends are flooding the celebrity golf tournament this week, but behind the autographed footballs, glitzy girlfriends and designer labels, there are two relatively unknown men who have more influence and power than any of the big names.
Dave Cudney and Steve Schorr set the odds for the 24th annual American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, held Friday through Sunday. For the past decade, these two gentlemen have been the masterminds behind every tournament prediction, matchup and ranking. Every year, they wield their odd-setting powers to formulate lines with incredible accuracy.
Cudney and Schorr have earned their ACC line privileges at Harvey’s Race and Sports Book. They’ve set odds in Lake Tahoe for more than 20 years, Cudney for the ACC since its first year in 1990.
“He should really be president of odds setting,” Schorr said of Cudney.
If there were such a title, Schorr and Cudney would both be in the running.
The two start the ACC process in April, sitting down to pour over meticulous notes that Cudney collected all year. Changes in this year’s lineup, past performances, expected summer playing time and even an inside NBC source all factor in.
Then it’s just Schorr and Cudney, hashing out the order and tinkering with the final product until the few remaining hours before tee off.
“It’s just a long process,” Schorr said. “Dave says the actual sitting down starts in April, but really it’s a yearlong process.”
The two talk celebrity golf in passing all year. The ACC is, after all, the Super Bowl of odds setting in Tahoe. It is the only time Cudney and Schorr are single-handedly responsible for setting odds. They base all other sports predictions on early lines released in Las Vegas or overseas. Celebrity golf is strictly the Schorr and Cudney show.
“If we lose on a football game, everybody loses, but if we lose on celebrity golf, it’s because Dave and I did the line,” Schorr said.
Either way, finest or worst hour, the list is out starting with No. 1 Dan Quinn (7/2) and ending with No. 90 Charles Barkley (500/1).
Quinn, a former NHL star, seems ready to defend his 2012 title. He spent a week caddying for Ernie Els at the U.S. Open last month, and has played golf nearly every day since.
“The hockey players become great golfers after they retire,” Cudney said.
Which is why Cudney also mentioned former NHL player Grant Fuhr (No. 13) as someone who could pull off a long-shot win. There’s no black-and-white answer though, just the top 15 and then the rest of the pack.
“It’s hard for a long shot to win this thing. So when you ask for a long shot who really has a chance, I would take a look at the top 15,” Cudney said. “I would go with (John) Smoltz. Or, if it’s a windy day, (Rick) Rhoden really plays well in the wind. Then again, (John) Elway is a really good athlete and so is (Trent) Dilfer.”
Rhoden is known to play with precision through Tahoe’s windy afternoons. The former MLB pitcher owns a tournament-best eight wins and is right on Quinn’s heels in the odds, ranked No. 2.
“The fun one for me is watching Rhoden,” Schorr said. “Just watching him and how he plays in the wind. A younger generation of golfers has come and kind of overtaken him, but he’s still always up there. It’s fun for me to watch a guy like that, who’s older but a great, great golfer, competing against the Quinns and the Tollivers.”
A mere 10 points separates Rhoden and Quinn’s opening lines in their celebrity matchup. Jack Wagner (No. 5) versus Billy Joe Tolliver (No. 3) will also be a close matchup.
The matchups are always a crowd favorite and also the trickiest part of the odds setters’ job.
“That’s the place where we have a chance to get hurt the most, the one-on-one matchups,” Schorr said. “We worry about that because somebody could be smarter than us. Dave and I put a lot of effort into it, but there are guys who are playing together all the time and they see what’s happening on a weekly basis.”
For celebrities who make that matchup list, it’s an honor in itself. Cudney only selects the most competitive golfers for the pairings.
“If you look at the matchups when they come out you’ll notice that they’re pretty much at the top of the leader board most of the time,” Cudney said.
The matchups are always a heavily debated topic. Cudney and Schorr usually hear what the celebrities think about their matchups via the grapevine. But like the rankings, there is a method to matchups.
“We would never have a Charles Barkley against a Dan Quinn because that’s a lot of points and it’s tough for us to manage,” Schorr said with a laugh.
Of course, expect a few surprises this year too.
“It seems like every year there’s somebody that we don’t know that much about who shows up on the scene and is really good,” Cudney said. “Last year, it was Smoltz. I think the year before it was Mark Mulder, and I remember one year Mark McGwire, we had him 50/1, and he turned out to be almost a professional golfer. We get some scares in there sometimes.”