Rypien eyes ACC repeat; Roenick, Pfeifer also contenders
STATELINE — Rick Rhoden, Mark Rypien and Billy Joe Tolliver are three of the most recognizable names in the 26-year history of the American Century Championship.
The trio has accounted for 14 of the previous 25 titles. Rhoden has won eight times, Tolliver four and Rypien twice.
When the star-studded tournament kicks off today at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, Tolliver was the early 7-2 favorite with Rypien at 5-1 and Rhoden at 7-1.
Tolliver joked about being named the favorite.
“Yeah, in my mind anyway,” the former quarterback said. “I’m the best pro-am player ever. I shoot nothing in the pro-am.”
Jeremy Roenick and Rypien believe Tolliver should be the favorite because of his attitude.
“I think it’s Billy Joe because he really doesn’t give a s*** what happens out there and whether he goes out there and makes a putt or not, where I think most of us are always squeezing everything as tight as we can,” Roenick said.
“Billy doesn’t play scared,” added Rypien, who won the tourney over Roenick last year with an eagle-birdie-birdie finish after a two-hour rain delay. “That’s what I love about him. Good, bad and ugly can come of it, but he’s willing to take the risk and most of the time it works out well for him.”
Rypien, the first-ever ACC winner, was asked what the key would be for him to repeat.
“Well, play my game obviously,” Rypien said. “There are 20 to 25 guys that have a legitimate chance to compete. You just go out and play.”
Rhoden also admitted his game is up and down. He has a history of winning this event in odd years. Seven of his eight wins have been in odd-numbered wins.
“My game is good for two weeks and then bad for two weeks,” he said. “I kind of hope it’s good this week. I can play as good as I ever could, but I just don’t do it as often now.”
If you’re looking for another potential winner, look no further than Roenick, who tied for second last year. Chad Pfeifer, who made his ACC debut last year and finished fifth, is also a contender.
Roenick has six top-10 finishes in the last six years. He admits he has to wipe out years of disappointment in the event.
“I’m excited and hopefully I don’t have to take a nap here in the clubhouse and wait two hours (through a rain delay),” the former hockey star said. “That was an epic battle last year. It was fun to be in there.”
Pfeifer, who led after the first round and was near the top after 36 holes, said that he got caught up in the moment on the final day.
“The first two days I was having fun,” he said. “I started to put more pressure on myself the last day.”