Quinn wins celebrity thriller
STATELINE – It was like watching a British Open or U.S. Open duel between Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson.
For the spectators who came to watch golf instead of stargazing, Sunday’s final round of American Century Championship was a classic confrontation between Dan Quinn and Rick Rhoden.
Celebrity golf’s top two players exchanged the lead six times before Quinn birdied three of the last four holes to secure his fourth win in the 15-year event at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
“This is celebrity golf at its best,” said Quinn, whose 74-point total was one better than Rhoden’s. “I think with Rick shooting a good score and me shooting a good score, maybe it’s the most rewarding one of all.
“Honestly, the (last) two years that I won, 2001 and 2002, Rick didn’t play that well. I kind of got off to good starts and this year he put the heat right on me and we both played pretty well all day.”
The two stars who have combined to win 10 of the 15 championships came to the par-5 final hole with Quinn clinging to a one-point lead. A wayward tee shot into the left rough by Rhoden and a fairway-splitting drive by Quinn seemed to remove some of the final-hole suspense.
However, Rhoden calmly smacked his 4-iron, 245-yard approach to 25 feet below the hole.
“I hit one of the best shots I’ve hit in four or five months to give myself a chance for eagle … that’s all I could ask for,” Rhoden said.
Not to be outdone, Quinn nestled his 6-iron second shot to within 10 feet.
“Give Danny credit, he hit two good shots there,” Rhoden said.
The two stars waited while first- and second-round leader Billy Joe Tolliver botched his final hole, spraying shots from the beach to Lake Laimbeer before holing out for a bogey and fourth place.
Rhoden putted first and nearly forced Quinn to make his eagle attempt. But Rhoden committed the cardinal sin of putting with a tournament on the line, he left his try short. Rhoden agonized as the ball stopped 6 inches from the hole.
“I kept saying don’t be short, don’t be short, but we waited so damn long when it finally came, I got so hung up on the lie, I forgot to hit the ball,” Rhoden said. Rhoden is a former major league baseball pitcher.
As a result, Quinn only needed a two-putt, which he cautiously executed. His eagle try rolled 8 feet and he wasted little time knocking in the tournament-clinching 2-foot birdie putt to claim the $100,000 first prize.
Celebrity golf’s two brightest stars combined to make 13 birdies and weren’t separated by any more than three points all day.
Rhoden birdied three of the first six holes, while Quinn got his third front-nine birdie by holing an improbable 35-foot downhill putt on No. 7.
But Rhoden made one of his patented final-round moves by birdieing both the 13th and 14th holes to take a three-point edge. Both birds were created by superb approach shots, leaving him 6 feet on No. 13 and 3 feet on No. 14.
Sensing the tournament starting to slip away, Quinn struck back on No. 15. He found the level part of the green with his approach shot and pumped his fist after draining an 18-foot birdie put.
“I knew I had to make birdie (on 15) because I didn’t want to give him a chance to run the tables,” Quinn said.
Meanwhile, Rhoden played an uncharacteristic 15th hole, pulling his tee shot under a pine. An overhanging limb forced Rhoden to punch out his next shot in front of the greenside traps. A subsequent poor chip left him with 30 feet and he two-putted for bogey.
They left the green tied at 68, with two spectator-pleasing par 5s ahead of them.
Quinn again found the fairway with his drive on 16, while Rhoden’s tee ball leaked out into the short rough. Rhoden wasn’t able to get enough clubhead on his second shot, leaving him 30 yards shy of the green. Quinn’s second shot came to rest a yard off the green and he putted to within 6 feet.
Showing off his fine touch, Rhoden chipped to within 6 feet as well, setting up two crucial birdie putts.
But Rhoden’s putt slid by and Quinn’s dropped, creating a two-point edge for the former hockey player.
A 17th-hole bogey trimmed Quinn’s lead to one, but all the mistake did was ensure that there wouldn’t be a playoff.
Under the old medal-score format, a playoff would have been needed. Quinn and Rhoden each shot final-round 68s to finish at 5-under 211.
Former Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien had his best result since winning the tournament’s debut in 1990, finishing third, seven points behind Quinn.
– ASAP Sports contributed to this story.