STATELINE — Rick Rhoden has been a fixture at the American Century Championship, and he didn’t pull any punches when asked about Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
“This has been my 21st year, and this is the best the course has looked, especially the greens,” Rhoden said during a press conference on Wednesday, just two days before the championship gets going.
“I mean they’re really good here. They are a lot faster. That might cause some problems, but they’re much, much better. So I wouldn’t be surprised if there are really good rounds played.”
“The golf course is in good shape as it’s ever been,” said former NFL quarterback Billy Joe Tolliver, who is appearing here for the 23rd time and has three victories to his credit. “There are some chances out there this year. When the lights come on you gotta see if you can flip the switch.”
Former Major League pitcher Derek Lowe, making his first trip to Edgewood, said he was impressed.
“The course is in beautiful shape,” Lowe said. “Everybody was raving about it. People said the greens were much improved from last year. There is definitely an opportunity to score, but the trees can be unforgiving. Playing Nos. 17 and 18 is a beautiful setting.”
The kudos on the condition of Edgewood is music to the ears of Brad Wunderlich, who is the first-year golf superintendent at Edgewood after spending 11 years at Montreux Golf & Country Club in Reno, site of the annual Reno-Tahoe Open.
Talking about Kap
The early success of ex-Nevada star and current San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick wasn’t a surprise to Tolliver.
“I think coming out there were a lot of people high on him,” Tolliver said. “I was one of them. I thought he would be an excellent pro because he has the fastball. He could make any throw on the field.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what goes in this year. I mean don’t get me wrong. I wish him all the luck in the world. I hope he does great. But you saw what happened to Cam Newton after his first year. Everybody is going to get a book on him, and all those defensive coordinators they are sitting back trying to figure out this read option. Defenses I’m sure are being trained to bend Kaepernick’s facemask. If I were the defensive coordinator I’d be bending his facemask every time he put the ball in somebody’s stomach and see how committed he is to running the ball in the fourth quarter.”
Tolliver also said it will be interesting to see what coach Jim Harbaugh’s mentality is to see how many times he’ll risk injury by putting his quarterback out on the edge.
Enjoying the area
Lake Tahoe is a destination city, and the golfers manage to get away and enjoy life off the course.
“I’ve been here a few times when I wasn’t playing golf,” said Rhoden, an eight-time winner of the event. “This is one of my favorite places. What’s not to like? I think it’s prettier in the winter than it is now. I’m not a skier, but my wife is.”
Tolliver prefers the sun.
“I’m not a winter guy; not a skier,” Tolliver said. “I think it’s prettier now than it is in the winter. I’ve done it all. I mean over the years I’ve been out on the lake. We’ve been everywhere except hiking. I’m not a slave to physical fitness anymore. I don’t care to be the best at exercising, as Kenny Powers would say. I’m not hiking up in those mountains.”
Rhoden admitted that he didn’t watch Tuesday night’s MLB all-star game, opting instead to see Tim McGraw in concert at Harvey’s.
Both Rhoden and Tolliver were impressed with the reception and adulation given to New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. When he came out to throw the eighth inning, players and fans alike gave him a standing ovation.
“I’m surprised he didn’t pitch the ninth, knowing he’ll never pitch in another one,” Rhoden said. “It’s a different game now. He’s great, no doubt about it.”
“For a guy to have so much success with just one pitch, it’s pretty impressive,” Tolliver said.
Rhoden did point out that former closers like Rollie Fingers and Goose Gossage, who pitched back in his era, often pitched two or three innings to pick up a save.