Gunning for Sorenstam
STATELINE – Making book on the American Century Championship is never easy for Steve Schorr, but with the addition of Annika Sorenstam to the field this year his job got tougher.
Schorr, who runs the sports betting at Harrahs and Harveys, explained the process of how he came to set the odds for this year’s tournament.
Sorenstam started at 2-1, went to even money and is now 12-10.
“Well, when we hear Annika’s playing, it kind of shakes us up a little bit,” Schorr said earlier this week. “So we go back and we look. She’s a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame. She was the LPGA player of the year eight times before retiring in 2008. She had 89 worldwide victories, including 17 on the LPGA, and 10 major championships and 22 million in earnings.
“So what we think is: What are we going to do with Annika? And it’s a decision we kind of toss it around. And on the positive side, she’s a champion golfer. On the negative side, the Stableford system. We think that it probably favors the men a little more. She won’t be driving as far as the guys sitting at this table (Rick Rhoden, Billy Joe Tolliver and Chad Pfeifer).”
Between Tolliver and Rhoden, you have 12 ACC titles. Rhoden is the all-time leader with eight victories. Tolliver holds the Stableford scoring record with 84 points which he piled up in his 2010 victory.
Action heated up on Sorenstam, forcing Schorr to adjust his thinking as well as the odds.
“We threw out the number of 2-1, and a lot of people thought at 2-1 she was a bargain,” Schorr said. “ So as the betting came in, we lowered the odds. And as of today, we are 12 to win 10. So pretty much all the money is on Annika. From what we’ve heard so far, she’s made two plays. She shot a 71 and a 67 at Edgewood.
“When we tried to investigate, it was really hard to get information. All I had was how she played this week. That’s what made it so hard to set the odds. We threw out 2-1 because these guys are all pretty good golfers, and it was obviously too high.”
Tolliver said Sorenstam should be the favorite.
“It doesn’t matter,” Tolliver said. “You gotta go play. And we’ll see how it goes. And there’s no question, you would have to be a blithering idiot not to have respect for her credentials and what’s she’s done in her arena. “I would be on line with Steve here saying, yes, she’s definitely the favorite, the one to go beat. But I’m not going to be sweating what Annika does. She don’t hit my ball.”
“Golf is not like the other sports,” Rhoden said. “Baseball, I throw the ball; they hit it. I rely on the guys to catch it. Golf, if any of us go out and play everyday, get 20 something points we have a good shot to win no matter who is playing. We’re concerned with trying to average around 25 points. If you do, you can beat a lot of people they bring up.”
There are some interesting pairings for today’s opening round. Tournament officials, in several instances, grouped by sport or job.
There are two group of pitchers. At 10:50 off No. 1, Bret Saberhagen, Mark Mulder and Roger Clemens are grouped together. At 9:30 off No. 1 will be Tim Wakefield, Derek Lowe and Goose Gossage.
The NASCAR trio of Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Denny Hamlin and Michael Waltrip at 10 a.m. The NHL gets into the act at 10:40 with Joe Sakic, Olympoic hero T.J. Oshie and Jeremy Roenick.
The acting industry boasts the talented trio of Friday Night Lights star Lucas Black, two-time champ Jack Wagner and Oliver Hudson from Rules of Engagement going off No. 1 at 9:50 a.m. At 10:05, Brian Baumgartner from The Office, is paired with Alan Thicke and John O’Hurley on No. 10.
The two featured groups are at 11:10 and 11:20, respectively, both going off No. 1.
At 11:10, it’s eight-time champ Rick Rhoden, four-time champ Billy Joe Tolliver and former champ Mark Rypien. Teeing off right behind them are Annika Sorenstam, John Smoltz and John Elway.
And, if you’re in the mood for comic relief, Charles Barkley, Kevin Nealon and Larry the Cable Guy are paired up at 11:30.
FUN ON THE RANGE
Barkley made his first appearance of the week at Edgewood, and was immediately introduced to Chad Pfeifer on the driving range.
Barkley put his arm around Pfeifer and asked him how many shots the amputee would give him.
“Eight a side and you have a bet,” Barkley said. “A hundred dollars a hole and eight shots a side and we have a bet.”
Pfeifer just smiled.
Several city and county dignitaries, including South Lake Tahoe mayor-pro tem Brooke Laine and Nancy McDermid, a Douglas County commissioner, were on hand in the media room for the reading of the proclamation celebrating the partnership between American Century Investments, NBC Sports and Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
“This is an unexpected surprise,” said Chris Doyle, vice president of corporate communications. “We’re a Kansas City-based company, and we come here for the week, take over the city once a year, and you guys treat us like family. So that’s great.
“And I’m a little confused, because we don’t have mountains or a giant lake like this in Kansas City, so it takes a little getting used to, but you make it easy.”
Quinn, representing NBC, has been involved in the tournament for 20 years.
“This is a very special week for us,” he said. “And needless to say, obviously it’s very important to have a great title sponsor for the last 15 years.
“But the community and the people, obviously the setting is wonderful, but the people are more wonderful. And I’d like to say to our partners at American Century and Korbel and the town, that our relationship is more of a hug than a handshake, and that’s rare in any business.”
Quinn also gave credit to the local hotels for accommodating guests.
“But please know from everybody at the NBC Sports Group, we could not be more grateful for the way you’ve just embraced this event since 1990,” Quinn said. “There no place on earth that you can do something like this and because of the wonderful people of this community and because of this wonderful setting. It’s the reason we’re standing here today. So from the bottom of my heart, thank you. I look forward to coming here every year and hopefully you know it’s not about looking back, it’s about looking forward, and that’s why this event will be here for another 50 years.”
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