Celebrity tourney scoring format changed | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Celebrity tourney scoring format changed

Steve Yingling, Tribune Sports Editor

Two-time defending champion Dan Quinn believes the best celebrity players will rise to the top in spite of the changes|Tribune file|

Former NBA star Charles Barkley and comedian Kevin Nealon can now complete their 18-hole celebrity golf rounds at Edgewood Tahoe and say with straight faces, “I don’t remember my score.”

Embarrassing high scores are out and a modified Stableford scoring system is in for the July 18-20 American Century Celebrity Golf Championship.

In an effort to keep more players in contention for the $100,000 first prize and attract new stars to the 54-hole tournament, NBC Sports has eliminated the stroke-play format.

“We try to make the tournament more compelling and more exciting every year, as well as try to bring in (new) players to the event,” said Jon Miller, NBC Sports’ senior vice president of programming. “It’s a unique format that increases the pool of potential winners and it also sets up a more dramatic finish.”

Stroke play has been tough on most of the field during the tournament’s 13-year history. Only retired Major League pitcher Rick Rhoden and retired NHL center Dan Quinn were under par after three rounds last year.

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Under the new format, which is similar to the scoring system used for PGA Tour’s International tournament in Castle Pines, Colo., players accrue points based on their performances on each hole. They can score as much as five points for an eagle and as little as zero for a double bogey or higher score. Birdies are good for three points and pars and bogeys will receive two and one point, respectively.

Obviously the player who accumulates the most points will win the 2003 championship.

“This is a way that a lot of people who have wanted to play in Tahoe but were a little bit afraid of the way the format had been set up in the past; this now gives them an opportunity to come out and play,” Miller said.

Mark McGwire, Troy Aikman and Dennis Miller have already expressed interest in participating under the new format. Raiders’ quarterback Rich Gannon and Trail Blazers’ guard Scottie Pippen have been reluctant to play in the past because they were intimidated with showcasing their golf games, Miller said.

In the stroke-play format, two players have dominated the championship: Rhoden won five titles and Quinn three, including the past two. Miller said the tournament wasn’t changed because of their dominance.

“It’s not a question of who’s winning,” Miller said. “It’s a way to open up our field to more big names and big-time celebrities to add to the incredible field we already have.”

Rhoden and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback John Elway believe the changes will create more aggressive shotmaking.

“We’re still going to have to make a lot of birdies and it’s going to eliminate where someone takes a big score, they don’t shoot themselves out of the golf tournament on one hole,” said Elway, who entertaining the idea of implementing the same scoring format for his celebrity tournament. “You won’t be worried about that big number anymore, so I think it will make everybody more aggressive.”

Rhoden, however, thinks the best players will still rise to the top.

“It still takes the better players to be the ones to win on the last day,” Rhoden said. “There are a couple good things about it. We have a lot of guys who are kind of wild and get some high numbers, but they also get a lot of birdies. This will keep them in it more.

“And you don’t think about your score when you’re playing Stableford, you think about how many points you’re getting. There are a lot of guys once they get one or two over par, they get real negative and try too hard. With this system they won’t do that.”

The new rules also will allow players to pick up their ball after reaching a bogey. This will speed up play and keep players from posting bogeys that most fans can’t pronounce.

“I think the new format is great,” said NBA TV analyst Tom Tolbert, whose 2002 championship high round was a 24-over-par 96. “Who wants to grind out a quadruple bogey — it takes away from beer drinking time. It’s great for the guys who stink. Everyone will be walking around with plus numbers and some fans who won’t realize the format changed will all think we’re in the hunt.”

Quinn doesn’t mind the modifications as he prepares to go for an unprecedented third straight championship.

“If you look at how you shoot a 70 or 71, it’s not going to change that much,” Quinn said. “I know I’m going to make my birdies. Now my mistakes won’t cost me as much. You still need to shoot a good score to get points.”

Advance tickets are available at http://www.tahoecelebritygolf.com. Prices are $10 each day for the Lake Tahoe Celebrity-Amateur on July 15, the practice round on July 16 and the American Century Celebrity-Am on July 17. Tickets are $20 for each tournament round July 18-20.