John Smoltz likes his chances almost as much as his odds to win his first title in the American Century Championship. The Atlanta Braves great is competing in the celebrity field at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course in Stateline, Nevada, for the 12th time, but has never done better than second.
Why so confident this go-round? Well, for starters, Smoltz, the 53-year-old former flamethrower turned broadcast analyst, has enjoyed a modicum of success on the PGA Tour Champions, beating the likes of major winners Mark Calcavecchia, Hale Irwin and Tom Kite earlier this year, and he’s won the celebrity division two years running at the Diamond Resorts Tournament of Champions in Orlando. And then there’s what he considers the coronavirus effect:
“This year I had nothing but time,” he said, noting all he’s been doing is playing golf for months.
Smoltz opened as a 30-1 favorite to hoist the winner’s trophy in the 54-hole tournament, but his odds improved to 7-1 after a rush of activity. “Oh, my gosh, I thought it was a misprint,” he said.
Speaking on SiriusXM’s “Out of Bounds” on Tuesday, Smoltz said, “I couldn’t get to the (casino sportsbook) fast enough to get some money down on me.”
Smoltz will face steep competition in the tournament, which uses a modified Stableford scoring format, from two-time defending champion Tony Romo, the odds-on-favorite at -130.
“We were laughing,” said Romo, the former Dallas Cowboys QB turned CBS Sports analyst who has played in several PGA Tour events. “I was, like, I thought this was golf, not one-on-one. But it’s just a nice statement that they think that I’m playing decent golf and hopefully – but I don’t think anyone here is that big of a favorite.”
Three-time champion and former pitcher Mark Mulder (13-10) is always in the mix and there are also high hopes for Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry (16-1), who will play in the opening round with his father, Dell.
Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is making his tournament debut just days after signing a new mega-contract. He reportedly flew to Lake Tahoe on a private jet with teammate Travis Kelce. Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers and Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald are also in the field.
The tournament will be broadcast on NBC; no spectators will be permitted this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. When asked what the impact of having no fans would mean to his game, Charles Barkley, who is playing in the tournament for the 25th time, said, “Well, for me, it’s probably going to be pretty good. I won’t hit anybody, so that’s always a welcome relief.”