Smoltz, Modano share lead after 1st round at ACC

John Smoltz, currently tied for first, gets himself and the crowd pumped up before teeing off on hole one.
Laney Griffo / Tahoe Daily Tribune

STATELINE, Nev. — The first day of the American Century Championship came to a close with baseball great John Smoltz and Hall of Fame hockey player Mike Modano tied for the lead with 25 points.

Smoltz was paired with Joe Buck and Joe Mauer, a group he said was a lot of fun to play with.

Last year, Smoltz had the most pars, something he wasn’t proud of. This year, he turned it around by bagging five birdies in the first round. If Smoltz wins, he’d be the oldest champion.

“I said on a bunch of interviews, I think they thought I was crazy, that my life would be incomplete if I don’t win Tahoe,” Smoltz said. “They’re like, ‘you can’t be serious.’ I’m serious. This is the event I’ve always wanted. It’s followed my career. I’m supposed to win a Cy Young, supposed to win a Cy Young, and finally did in ’96. But you’re always trying to feel like, when people tell you should win or win a Cy Young and you’re not doing it, even though my expectations are higher — it’s the same feeling here. It’s like, ‘oh, I can’t believe you haven’t won yet.’ All my buddies back home … I want to be the oldest winner and I can kind of shut them up.”

Modano hit the shot of the tournament, maybe the best shot in the entire history of the ACC.

Modano holed out from 205 yards on the par-5 18th Friday for the first albatross in history of the event and a share of the first-round lead with John Smoltz.

“That’s hard to believe off 18. Most guys hit it so good and so long, hitting 9s and 8s (irons) in there, you’d think someone is going to snake one in some day. I can’t believe it. I can’t believe it,” Modano said.

His playing partner Joe Pavelski saw the shot in the air and start moving across the green then heard the fans scream.

“Definitely some good fireworks there,” Pavelski said.

After managing nine points on nine pars on the first 15 holes at Edgewood Tahoe, Modano earned 16 on the final three in the modified Stableford scoring event. The former Dallas star had three-point birdies on the par-5 16th and par-3 17th before earning 10 more on 18. In conventional scoring, he had a 1-over 73.

Jack Wagner chased Smoltz all day but had to save himself from the rough on Hole 17. He ended the first day one behind Smoltz with a 24, tied with NHL player Joe Pavelski.

Wagner is one of the two players that’s played in all 32 of the prior ACC tournaments.

“It was really good playing for me today, I don’t play that much golf anymore at 61,” Wagner said.

Wagner didn’t go into the day expecting to be in the running but now that he is, he said he has his eye on the prize.

Golf great and part-time Tahoe local Annika Sorenstam is still in the running, ending the day with 23, tied with former 49er Kyle Williams and Vinny Del Negro.

Golf legend Annika Sorenstam waves to the crowd.
Laney Griffo/ Tahoe Daily Tribune

They hold a one point lead on Steph Curry. While Steph Curry kept up the leaders, he also seemed to have a ton of fun playing with his father, Dell and brother, Seth.

The basketball dynasty wore matching shirts and were seen shooting hoops on Hole 17.

Defending champ Mardy Fish isn’t among the leaders for the day. He ended at 13th with 18 points but with two days left, he can’t be counted out.

The other big news from the day was Charles Barkley. The work he put into his swing seems to be paying off. The sports books took bets on if he’ll finish in the top 70 and at the end of the first day, that bet isn’t looking too far fetched. He is currently tied for 81st but is close behind the people in front of him.

The fans came back in full force. Prior to the first tee time at 10 a.m., a line backed up from the Edgewood entrance all the way to U.S. Highway 50. Many people who were waiting in line were turned away after tickets sold out. Saturday and Sunday are sold out as well.

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