STATELINE — As Stephen Curry walked down the 17th fairway Saturday, he was greeted by footballs and a basketball thrown from the gallery.
He threw a long pass down the fairway, then was off-target with his basketball shot. It didn’t matter. He was having a great time, soaking up the atmosphere at the 24th annual American Century Championship at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
And why shouldn’t he?
Curry, a 50-1 shot to win the tournament, scored 25 points for a 36-hole total of 47 and a one-stroke lead over Jeremy Roenick (22-24-46) and Chris Chandler (24-22-46) entering today’s final round.
Mark Rypien, the first-round leader, sits all alone in fourth place at 45 (27-18). Billy Joe Tolliver had a 25-point day and is alone in fifth at 42. Eight-time champ Rick Rhoden (19-20) and John Elway (22-17) are tied for sixth at 39. The top 10 is rounded out by Mark Mulder (17-21) and John Smoltz (18-20) at 38 and Lucas Black (25-12) at 37.
“I picked up where I left off yesterday,” Curry said. “Kind of stumbled in on 17 and 18, but I’m just having fun out here, enjoying the whole scene and playing well. Hopefully, it continues tomorrow.
“So it feels good. I made some birdies and didn’t have too many bad holes, so I’m in pretty good shape.”
Curry recorded five birdies, three bogeys and 10 pars. One of his bogeys came on No. 18, when he four-putted after reaching the green in two.
Fortunately, bogeys don’t count against you in the modified Stableford format. He has yet to make a double bogey; that’s why he’s leading the tournament.
“I’m kind of surprised myself with how consistent I’ve been over the two days. That’s what I’ve tried,” Curry said. “I’ve shot low before, but haven’t kind of followed it up.”
Consistency is the perfect word to sum up Curry’s game Saturday. He recorded seven pars and one birdie on the first nine. He picked up steam on the back nine, registering four more birdies before finishing with bogeys on Nos. 17 and 18.
“On 17, I had it lined up right, and it broke a little more than I thought. I guess it hit poana (grass),” Curry said. “And 18, putting from the fringe, probably the first time I did it all day, all tournament, I didn’t know how fast it would come out of the fringe, and it got on the green. It was flying, and I kind of got a little rattled after that.”
The back-to-back bogeys let Curry’s pairing partner, Roenick, sneak back in despite hitting out of bounds on No. 18.
Roenick, whose temper runs hot at times on the golf course, exercised uncharacteristic poise on the OB and throughout 18. He even stayed calm after hitting his first drive of the day into a bunker for a bogey.
“Usually I would have had a conniption on the first hole,” Roenick said. “But I made bogey and settled it down. I made four birdies and I bogeyed 18. So it was a big sandwich.”
The first and last holes were the only bogeys Roenick had all day on his way to adding 24 to his Friday score of 22.
In the middle of that bogey sandwich, Roenick also added a tuck-and-roll touchdown catch from John Elway on a spectator-packed No. 17.
“As soon as I caught it, I did the barrel rollover one of the bushes. It was a touchdown,” said Roenick, who dropped the first pass Elway threw him.
Chandler birdied three of his first four holes (Nos. 1, 3 and 4) to start the day. He added two birdies on the back nine.
“I got off to a fast start,” Chandler said. “Both yesterday and today I kind of fell asleep in that 6 to 8 area a little bit. And I just kind of held on for a while, and then played real solid coming in. I hit what I thought was a perfect little lob wedge on 18 that hit, bounced in the bunker, plugged and I made a nice bogey putt.”
Rypien, who was leading by two shots after Friday, finished with an 18 for the day and 45 total.
“I started off pretty slow,” Rypien said. “I got a bogey on the first hole. I hit it in the sand trap over the green at 1. I made a good two-putt bogey. From then on I played par golf, made a birdie and finished with nine points on the front side.
“I just didn’t make anything, and that’s Tahoe every year, though. I mean if you make 18 points out here you feel like you left a lot out there, but everybody misses putts. You have 10-15 footers all day long. It’s a crap shoot whether it’s going to hit a chunk of poana or stay on line. One day it looks like it’s going to break left to right and it breaks left to right. And when Steph gets to be 50, he’ll play in the 50th anniversary of this and he’ll be shaking his head, too.”
Maybe some day, but for now Curry is just concentrating on turning in a repeat performance today.
“I don’t know what to expect the winning number will be, but as long as I don’t make any mistakes, roll in a couple of birdies and keep the confidence I have swinging the club, we’ll see what happens,” Curry said. “Hopefully, it won’t have to come down to a four-putt on 18.”
Nevada Appeal sports editor Darrell Moody contributed to this report.