The folks out at the 17th hole of the American Century Championship are nothing if not subtle. As Jimmer Fredette and Charles Barkley approached the small sandy beach of Lake Tahoe’s South Shore, the ruckus crowd made noise, threw basketballs to the players and um … made proposals? Just another day on the course for these two guys, who by all accounts garnered the largest roving crowd.
My intention was to give these guys a few holes, then break off and catch some of the other players around the course. That didn’t happen. Early in the round, a mystery guest showed up on the scene to aid these two golfers in their quest to move up the leader board … or at least stop from moving all the way to the bottom. At the request of Jimmer Fredette, world renowned swing doctor, Hank Haney joined the Fredette/Barkley twosome and the instruction began.
I would love to tell you that the two players who were tied for second to last coming into the day turned it all around and stormed for +27 points like Dallas Cowboy QB Tony Romo did. Haney is good, but no one is that good. What he did do, however, was help Barkley hit multiple 300+ yard drives while building an incredible foundation for Jimmer.
More after the jump…
Barkley’s improvement was nothing short of miraculous. Gone was the stop and go motion that he is so famous for. Replacing that mess was an inconsistent but powerful long game to go along with a soft touch short game around the greens. Jimmer has years of work ahead of him, but only because he just picked up the game. Watching Haney remove the “casting” of round one from Jimmer’s swing was amazing. Jimmer looked the part of an over-coached player, trying to remember every little adjustment, but if you’ve ever played golf, you remember that phase. While Jimmer was learning to play golf, his coachability, determination and patience were on full display.
Meanwhile, Charles Barkley was a real life walking sound bite, just like his persona on TNT. When someone from the gallery yelled out, “Hey Charles, what do you think of the lockout?”, he replied exactly how you would expect- “What do I think of the lockout? It’s bullshit!”. He gave advice, talked a little Westphal with Jimmer and made sure that the rookie knew that he was about to have two things – a whole lot of time on his hands and plenty of money to spend, a dangerous combination for a young man.
Although the thought of Charles Barkley hanging out all day with Jimmer Fredette might scare some folks, he was the perfect role model for a young NBA hopeful, playing in his first major celebrity golf tournament. While Michael Jordan and Tony Romo walked passed fans holding out sharpies and memorabilia, Charles Barkley took the time to engage the audience and give some of himself to the crowd. The camera doesn’t often catch his soft side, but it is evident, as captured here when Barkley stopped to have a conversation and sign autographs for two wheel chair bound children cheering him on. On day one, Jimmer told every fan that he would be signing at the 18th hole. On day two, taking the lead of his veteran partner, Jimmer was standing next to Sir Charles, smiling, signing and taking pictures between each hole. You can’t please everyone, but the ones you do, remember it for a lifetime.
As for the rest of the tournament, the weather was even better on Saturday if that is possible. Jack Wagner (52 points) clung to his day one lead, but Tony Romo (46 points) leapfrogged Chris Chandler (42 points) and Jeremy Roenick (40 points) to secure a spot in the final pairing on Sunday. TV actor Oliver Hudson (41 points) matched Romo’s one day total of 27 points to slide into fourth place behind Chandler. Roenick ended the day tied for fifth with John Smoltz and Vinnie Del Negro, a stroke ahead of Brett Saberhagen.
Jimmer finished Saturday a stroke above Jay DeMarcus (-59 points) of Rascal Flats fame, who again sits in last place. Barkley’s -52 points leads Jimmer by six, after the Round Mound of Rebound scored a much improved -22 points on Saturday. Jimmer finishes up on Sunday paired with actor Kevin Nealon (-45 points) and former NFL quarterback Trent Green (-49). The group tees off at 10:10 from the tenth this morning.