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Celebrity golf: Whose turn is it, Quinn’s or Rhoden’s?

By Steve Yingling

Tribune sports editor

STATELINE – Al Del Greco is the last celebrity other than Dan Quinn or Rick Rhoden to win the American Century Championship, and the former NFL kicker didn’t seem confident Thursday afternoon that anything would change when the 2005 champion is crowned on Sunday.

“This format rewards players who are aggressive and have control of their game. They are both guys who can do that,” Del Greco said. “They know when to be aggressive and when to be conservative.

“(The Stableford format) fits them very well because they both make a lot of birdies, they’re not going to make a lot of bogeys and they hardly ever are gonna make a double.”

Quinn and Rhoden have combined to win the past four titles and five of the past six championships.

“I’ve tried hard, but we are up against a couple of guys who have to play sub-par and we have to play as good as we can to beat them,” said Mark Rypien, the tournament’s first champ in 1990. “(The format) should help other guys to have a better chance, but it’s also consistency, too.”

Billy Joe Tolliver, the 1996 champion, took a two-point lead into last year’s final round but slipped to fourth. The former NFL quarterbacks thinks three things have prevented him from winning more.

“Rhoden and Quinn and my own ignorance,” he said.

Quinn has become what Rhoden was in the mid-1990s, the tournament’s dominant player. He’s won three of the past four titles and was the first player last year to repeat a championship. Quinn thinks the fact that the ACC is the tour’s only major tournament brings out the best in both of them.

“A lot of guys want it but just haven’t done it,” Quinn said.

“The other tournaments don’t have the aura of this one and the motivation isn’t there to do well, but this tournament, the reason Rick and I have done well is that it’s three days, there’s TV and we’re enjoying the whole atmosphere.”

Quinn was thankful for Stableford scoring last year, because he was on the verge of falling out of contention during the second round.

“I didn’t play very well on Saturday, but I made a couple of birdies late in the round and I was back in the thing. Billy Joe could have run away with it, but he just didn’t play the back nine very well.”

Rhoden has only won once in the past five years but has been playing well of late. He smoked the field by eight strokes at the Saratoga National Celebrity Classic last month and was second to Pierre Larouche on Larouche’s home course in the Mellon Mario Lemieux Celebrity Invitational a few weeks ago.

“I’m playing pretty good,” Rhoden said. “I shot 11-under par (at Mario’s tournament) and the most I ever shot there was 5 under.”

That’s not good news for the other contenders, but it may be music to Quinn’s ears. Trying to win an unprecedented third straight title without a little heat from Rhoden just wouldn’t be a normal American Century Championship.


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