South Lake Tahoe, NV (SportsNetwork.com) - The 25th American Century Championship has a different twist when compared to the first 24 versions, as former LPGA superstar Annika Sorenstam makes it a battle of the sexes at the Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Sorenstam, winner of 89 international tournaments, took on the men once before in the Bank of America Colonial back in 2003, but failed to make the cut by three strokes. Still, she led the field in driving accuracy after the first round of play and defeated 13 male golfers after the first two days of action.
This venture should be a little bit easier for Sorenstam even though she stopped playing professionally in 2008. This time around she will not be facing the likes of Phil Mickelson, Kenny Perry, Justin Leonard and Jim Furyk. Instead, her main challengers are Billy Joe Tolliver, Rick Rhoden, Jack Wagner and Jeremy Roenick.
The tournament, which runs from Friday through Sunday, July 18-20, is a 54- hole contest based on a modified Stableford scoring system with the higher total the better. Players receive 10 points for a double eagle, eight for a hole-in-one, six for an eagle, three for a birdie and one for par. Golfers also get zero for a bogey and a minus two for a double-bogey or higher.
Tolliver, last year's winner, prevailed with 67 points -- the second-lowest winning score since the Stableford format began in 2003. Ironically, the lowest total ever for a winner was the year before when Dan Quinn took home his fourth title.
Rhoden leads all golfers with eight career wins since the tournament began in 1990. Quinn is second with four, Tolliver has three titles and Wagner has two. In fact, those four have won 12 of the last 13 American Century Championships. Chris Chandler (2007) is the only other player to grab a win since 2000.
Tolliver won last year's tournament on the third playoff hole against another former NFL quarterback, Mark Rypien. Mark Mulder finished third, one point behind. Incidentally, Rypien garnered the victory in the first-ever American Century Championship back in 1990.
Quinn, the favorite heading into last year's event, could do no better than 13th with 51 points, while Rick Rhoden, second choice in the wagering, finished 10th with 56.
Speaking of Rhoden, this will be the third consecutive American Century Championship that he will not be the favorite. He currently is listed at 5-1, behind Sorenstam (2-1) and Tolliver (9-2). Rhoden was 4-1 in both 2013 (10th place last year) and in 2012 (tied for ninth place). Moreover, Rhoden has not finished in the top three since winning in 2009. The longest he went prior without a win-place-show finish was one single year, which happened three times (2000, 1998 and 1996).
Tolliver won the first time he entered in 1996 and then again in 2005, 2010 and 2013. Rypien finished second the last two years.
The choice to win the 2014 contest is Annika Sorenstam. She has played on this course before and has been practicing of late on her accuracy. The 2-1 odds might be a little steep, but she still has the talent to walk off a winner. As for a longshot, look for Rypien to continue his stellar play at a very generous 8-1.