The golf gods smiled down from the heavens Friday at the American Century Championship. The weather was an incredible 70-degrees, the stars were out everywhere and the tiny white balls fly a lot further at 6,200 feet. Although we are here to cover Jimmer Fredette, there is a golf tournament that needs to be played as well, complete with winners and paychecks. Coming into the weekend, Tony Romo, Rick Rhoden and Billy Joe Tolliver were the favorites. After day one, Jack Wagner (29 points), Chris Chandler (24 points) and Jeremy Roenick (24 points) are leading the way with some of the tournament’s favorites still within striking distance.
More after the jump…
Perhaps the biggest surprise to come out of day one was the stellar play of Michael Jordan. A 40-1 favorite coming in, Jordan finished with 16 points and will pair with Vince Coleman (17 points) and Vinnie Del Negro (17 points) on day two. While he is still a long shot to win, his swing looked great and he is one of the few men on earth that could pull off the plaid pants he sported on Friday.
Fan favorite Charles Barkley looked as though he had reinvented his swing, but the results were the same. Sir Charles scored -30 points (yes, that’s a negative 30), tying him with Jimmer Fredette for the second highest score of the day. Amazingly, Barkley stopped at just about every hole to sign autographs and take pictures with adoring fans. Tomorrow, Jimmer and Barkley will tee off together from the 10th tee at 10:20 am.
As for our coverage of Jimmer, I couldn’t have asked for a better experience than Friday. Although I wasn’t able to get an interview with the elusive former BYU star, I did spend the day traipsing through the forest with team Fredette. In town enjoying the sights were Jimmer’s girl friend Whitney, his parents Al and Kay, his agent Chris Emens of Octagon and an assorted lot of other relatives.
While Jimmer warmed up at the driving range, I spoke to Whitney, a soon to be senior cheerleader at BYU. The pair have been jet setters this week, starting out in New York for a family wedding, followed by a trip to Los Angeles for the ESPYs on Wednesday and then to Tahoe for Thursday’s practice round. She told me that Jimmer had really been looking forward to meeting Michael Jordan, but due to lockout restrictions, that meeting was out of the question. Thursday was the first time Whitney had seen Jimmer play golf and as we both stood and watched him warm up, we came to a consensus- between the travel, the fans and the lack of golf experience, Jimmer was in for a long weekend.
Jimmer’s dad Al was quick to point out while we were on the course that his son had only played golf seven or eight times in total, his entire life. It didn’t help Jimmer’s cause that he was playing with Denver Bronco’s quarterback Tim Tebow, who hit a golf ball like he rushes the ball at the goal line, and coach Herm Edwards who looked like a seasoned pro. While Tebow crushed the ball off the tee, Jimmer landed in the drink on both the first and second holes. Toward the middle of the round, Jimmer warmed up, dropping in a six footer for a par three on the seventh. The crowd went wild as “go Kings!” and “Sacramento!” shouts came from all over the gallery.
As the day wore on, like most golfers who don’t play regularly, Jimmer had a difficult time keeping the ball in the fairway. Fatigue and aggressive pine trees became his enemies as he finished the day with one of the tournament’s highest scores. I expect a better round for Jimmer today. After having a few days to rest up and get acclimated to both the thin air of Lake Tahoe and the bustling crowds, his scoring should improve. Teaming with Charles Barkley should be a treat, although the crowds will be even bigger with weekend traffic and the pairing should draw plenty of attention.
We will be back later with second round coverage of the American Century Championship from Edgewood Golf Course. It’s not too late to get up here and enjoy the serene surroundings of Lake Tahoe and take in a little bit of Jimmermania.