Curry laughs off Barkley’s chances to finish in top 70 at ACC; Tourney starts today
STATELINE, Nev. — Athletes and celebrities closed out the last day of golf before Friday’s opening round of the American Century Championship.
Wednesday’s festivities included a skills competition that pitted golf personality Paige Spiranac, golf legend, Annika Sorenstam, and former Miss America Kira Dixon against NFL Hall of Fame players Jerry Rice and Marcus Allen.
Spiranac, Sorenstam, and Dixon would easily best Rice and Allen. Adding insult to the defeat was Spiranac, who after hearing some trash talk from Rice, nearly drained a 30-yard bunker shot.
When Spiranac’s ball came to a rest a few inches from the hole, Allen said to Rice, “That’s a shut-down corner right there, Jerry.”
Players from each team hit two shots from the rough and two from a bunker as part of the competition. The aggregate distance of each team’s top player decided the match.
“We just got killed,” said Rice.
The winners received a magnum of Korbel champagne, delivered to them by the losers who bowed and tipped their caps to them. Dixon promptly opened it, sprayed it and shared it with her teammates.
“We had a legend,” Spiranac said, referring to Sorenstam. “It freed us up to play loose.”
A few bucks on Chuck?
One of the storylines among the field of players and betting public that has emerged is the improved play of NBA Hall of Fame player Charles Barkley.
Last year the Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill offered a betting line on whether Barkley could finish in the top 70. Barkley said he bet $100,000 on himself to finish in the top 70, prompting the sportsbook to return his bet. He finished tied for 76th in a field of 88, his best finish in relation to the size of the field since the early 2000s.
Since then, the NBA legend said he has been working to improve his game with PGA pro Stan Utley.
Some, including recently crowned NBA Finals MVP Steph Curry, took the chance during Thursday’s press conference to throw a little shade on Barkley’s chances to break into the top 70.
“No,” laughed Curry. “Hell no. Clip that, send it to him, let him play it on every tee box. There’s no way he’s doing it. As much faith as Chuck has had in the Warriors and jump-shooting teams winning championships, that’s the … that’s the amount of faith I have in him hitting the top 70.”
Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo was more optimistic about Barkley’s chances during the press conference.
“You know, I would have said no two weeks ago, but we were in Dallas together and we went out an dhit on the range,” said Romo. “And we were just talking golf. And I love Charles. He’s one of the best guys anywhere. He’s so generous and giving. He’s got such a big heart. But he hit the ball really well. And he improved a lot last year, I thought.
“But now his ability to actually turn the ballover and hit a two-yard draw and get it to tumble. And his sequencing, it’s just different. Everyone knows about the hitch. But he really has changed his game in the sequence. I know he got a lot of help from Stan Utley, and that helped. And it was genius, some of the stuff he was telling me. But he looked great. I would bet on him to finish in the top 70.”
Last year’s winner, Vinny Del Negro also commented on Barkley’s improved play.
“He’s been working on his golf game,” said Del Negro. “And his swing looks better. But the range is one thing, and then getting out there and posting a score and putting the ball in the hole was a little bit different.
Other celebrities polled Thursday at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course, according to officials, all said they think Barkley, who for years has finished among the bottom three to five players here, will be among the top 70 in this 87-player field.
Barkley also has a side bet going with NFL quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The two made a bet last month during “The Match,” the made-for-TV golf competition pitting Rodgers and Tom Brady against fellow NFL quarterbacks Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen.
Rodgers said last month he would allow Barkley to cut off his man bun if Barkley finishes ahead of him at this week’s tournament.
If Rodgers wins, Barkley will donate $25,000 to the North Valley Community Foundation in Rodgers’ hometown of Chico. Rodgers has already donated $1 million to the foundation, which provides COVID-relief funds for 80 small businesses in Chico and surrounding Butte County.
Rodgers has had three top-20 finishes in the last five years.
“First of all, he’s probably going to win,” Barkley, who stated during a conference call two weeks ago he plans to bet $100,000 on himself to finish among the top 70. “Aaron’s a lot better golfer than me. But I don’t mind giving money to charity.
“But he doesn’t need 25,000. He needs about $22 because a man bun is not a thing. Just because you’re too cheap to cut your hair, you can’t make it a style.”
Rodgers didn’t appear worried about losing his hair.
“I could play left-handed and with a 7-iron only and beat Charles,” Rodgers said after Wednesday’s celeb-am round. “I’m looking forward to Charles donating that $25,000 to the North Valley Community Foundation.”
First round of play
Del Negro will lead off tomorrow’s opening round of play along with 2021 Warrior Open Champion Cup golf champion Captain Adam Napier and former MLB pitcher Mark Mulder at 10:08 a.m. Other notable parings at the first tee box include NFL players Hall-of-Famers Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, and Marcus Allen at 9:31 a.m. The Steph Curry, Dell Curry, and Seth Curry at 9:15 a.m., Mahomes, teammate Travis Kelce, and Timberlake at 10:17 a.m., followed by Barkley, The Miz, and actor/comedian Anthony Anderson at 10:26 a.m.
Round one pairings can be found at americancenturychampionship.com/player-pairings/.
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