New talent abound in ACC |

New talent abound in ACC

What does the American Century Championship need more than anything? More women? Eighteen more holes?

Looking at the results over the past 17 years, it’s obvious that the 54-hole championship needs a new wave of title contenders.

Considering that Rick Rhoden, Dan Quinn and Billy Joe Tolliver have combined to capture 12 championships, the event has been lacking for some new star power on the leader board.

That may happen as early as this weekend.

But that possibility will depend on how well Ryan Longwell, Tony Romo and Lucas Black handle the pressure of playing in front of large galleries.

“We’ll know the first day, because usually if anybody comes in new, if they play good the first, they are a pretty good player,” Rhoden said. “Usually it’s a little different for them playing in this.

Get some new players in here that can play, that would be good.”

Longwell, a placekicker for the Minnesota Vikings, actually is a second-year participant. He wasted no time proving his ability last year, finishing ninth.

“I played with Longwell on Wednesday,” said Black, a 24-year-old

actor. “Man, he’s a great player. We had a great practice round. You’re gonna have to look out for him this year.”

Black is perhaps the most intriguing addition to the field. Odds opened at 60-1 of him winning the tournament. But word has spread that Black can play. As of Thursday afternoon, Black’s odds had dropped to 45-1.

“He’s a sleeper,” said Carl Fair, a local real estate broker who came away impressed with Black after playing on his team in the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority tournament on Tuesday. “He has soft hands, drives the ball well and is as nice as Ben Crenshaw.”

Black played two years of high school golf and has spent most of the year retooling his game playing in amateur events around his hometown of Columbia, Mo.

“It’s been a struggle for me, but it’s getting better,” said Black, who played the star quarterback in “Friday Night Lights.” “I can’t wait to see how it goes.”

A smile comes across Black’s face when asked which stars he’d like to meet this weekend. The celebrity names pouring out of his mouth aren’t Jordan, Barkley and Romano.

“I’d like to play with the past champions of this tournament: Rick Rhoden, Dan Quinn and Billy Joe Tolliver, Al Del Greco and Jack Wagner. If I’m lucky enough, I’ll be able to play with them,” Black said.

Translation: Black thinks he’s good enough to play with the best.

As for Romo – the player most responsible for turning around the Dallas Cowboys’ fortunes last season – there already is plenty of hype to live up to on the golf course. Romo is known for shooting a even-par round of 72 in U.S. Open qualifying in May and for missing the cut in the 2004 PGA Byron Nelson tournament

Romo has one past champion in his corner.

“He’s a damn good player,” Tolliver said. “Everybody’s forgetting about Romo. It doesn’t matter with this guy. He’s good.”

It’s refreshing that some other players have an opportunity to be the talk of the tournament.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or

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