Move over, Charles Barkley! From Steph to Smoltz to Romo, celebrity golfers are now actually…really good

July 11, 2019

The American Century Championship has never lacked for star power — nor for talent. But now, more than ever, the tournament’s best players are also its biggest stars. No, Charles Barkley isn’t expected to contend this year. A number of top-flight athletes headline this year’s 30th edition of the event in Lake Tahoe, marking a true golden age for celebrity golf.

Take a look at this year’s favorites and consider their “other” athletic careers, too. Defending ACC champion Tony Romo was a four-time Pro Bowl quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. Last year, Romo edged out former Cy Young contender Mark Mulder, who won in 2015, ’16 and ’17 and returns with revenge on his mind. Cy Young winner and perennial MLB All-star John Smoltz is expected to contend, too, after a renewed focus on his own game. Steph Curry, who finished 4th in 2017, will enter this year’s event fresh off a fifth consecutive NBA Finals appearance.

What do these two MLB aces, a Pro Bowler and an NBA MVP have in common? In recent months, they have all sharpened their games against the best golfers in the world.

Romo’s latest pro appearance came in May at the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas. He missed the cut, but was encouraged by a steady showing of 76-74 — and remains wholly consumed by the vexing game of golf.

“You can really make a ton of improvement with the right technique or practice. It’s like a puzzle. You can figure it out and you can really improve. It’s just, you got to go try and dissect it and figure it out,” Romo said after the Byron Nelson, more determined than ever. “If you can, then you can shoot scores that you’re proud of.”

Mulder played in last fall’s Safeway Open, posting 75-74. He’s been itching to get back to Tahoe. “I personally don’t get this anywhere else. So that’s why this is my favorite week of the year,” he said after last year’s event.

Smoltz, now 52, has been making a concerted effort at playing the PGA Tour Champions. In three 2019 starts, he’s shown flashes of brilliance — and earned praise from his competition. “I have had a lot of flattering comments from guys who say, ‘Hey, you can really play.’ Guys like Billy Andrade, Jerry Kelly.

“They manage their games better; I’m still learning. When I think about what needs to be different, it’s kind of like a lineup where there’s one guy who you just can’t get out.” For Smoltz the pitcher, that hitter was Tony Gwynn. For Smoltz the golfer, it’s a matter of honing in all facets of his game at the right time.

As for Curry? He may be the most golf-mad of them all. “I think I think about golf way too much, it’s a problem. Like, during a game, yeah,” he admitted in a Facebook show following his life.

“If I’m on the bench, dead ball or something, a swing tip might pop into my head…I’m haunted by it. That’s what my wife says,” Curry said.

Curry’s two Web.com tour events have come near his home at the Ellie Mae Classic; while he missed the cut both times, three of the four rounds were 74 or better, impressing his playing partners.

Every week besides the ACC, this crew of serious players pull for each other. “It’s awesome. Celebrity golf is getting better, the upper echelon of guys who can play, and we always know when another guy is playing,” Smoltz said. But the American Century Championship, as fun as it is, means time to dial in their best efforts.

“It’s our World Series of Golf,” he continued. “I haven’t won it, I want win one, and if I stay relatively healthy I’ll be in the running again.”

When pressed for his list of tournament favorites, Smoltz listed the usual suspects: Mulder, Romo, Curry. But he’s gunning for the top spot himself. “I just want to be in the last group one time. I just want to get in that last group and put myself in a position where I can win.”

The better-than-ever competition guarantees just one thing: If Smoltz makes it to that final group, it’s because he’s earned it.

You can see the complete list of odds for ACC favorites below. Romo is the favorite to repeat at 5/2, followed by Mulder (3/1) and Smoltz (6/1). Curry isn’t far behind at 15/1.

As for Barkley? He’s available at 7500/1 — but we still wouldn’t call that value.

American Century Championship Odds

Tony Romo 5/2
Mark Mulder 3/1
John Smoltz 6/1
Kyle Williams 8/1
Mardy Fish 8/1
Steph Curry 15/1
Joe Pavelski 15/1
Jeremy Roenick 15/1
Trent Dilfer 15/1
Derek Lowe 18/1
Mark Rypien 18/1
Jack Wagner 18/1
Mike Modano 25/1
Ray Allen 25/1
Sterling Sharpe 40/1
Tyler Eifert 50/1
Jerry Rice 50/1
Jordy Nelson 50/1
Adam Thielen 50/1
Case Keenum 75/1
Aaron Rodgers 75/1
Vinny Del Negro 75/1
Tyler Seguin 75/1
Eric Weddle 75/1
Bode Miller 75/1
Bret Baier 75/1
Carson Palmer 75/1
Tom Glavine 75/1
Larry Fitzgerald 75/1
Justin Timberlake 75/1
Jerry Woods 100/1
Robbie Gould 100/1
Bret Saberhagen 100/1
Greg Maddux 100/1
Brian Urlacher 100/1
Jay Bilas 100/1
Patrick Peterson 100/1
Mike Vrabel 100/1
Anthony Lynn 100/1
Matt Nagy 100/1
Frank Reich 100/1
Doug Pederson 100/1
Joe Theismann 150/1
Tim Wakefield 150/1
Shane Victorino 150/1
Trevor Hoffman 150/1
Dell Curry 150/1
Ivan Rodriguez 150/1
Alfonso Ribeiro 200/1
Kevin Millar 200/1
David Wells 200/1
Rodney Harrison 200/1
Joe Mauer 200/1
Tim Brown 200/1
Kyle Fuller 200/1
Jimmy Rollins 200/1
Ozzie Smith 200/1
Kyle Rudolph 300/1
Josh Allen 300/1
Golden Tate 300/1
Bobby Flay 300/1
Joe Don Rooney 300/1
Andy Dalton 500/1
Jerome Bettis 500/1
TJ Oshie 500/1
Lisa Cornwell 500/1
Kyle Lowry 1000/1
Dylan Dreyer 1000/1
Andre Iguodala 1000/1
Jim McMahon 1000/1
AJ Hawk 1000/1
Roger Clemens 1000/1
Terrell Davis 2000/1
Doug Flutie 2000/1
Brian Baumgartner 2000/1
Kira Kazantsev 2000/1
Marcus Allen 2000/1
Reggie Bush 2000/1
Sean Payton 2000/1
Miles Teller 2000/1
Rob Riggle 3000/1
Charles Woodson 3000/1
Steve Young 3000/1
Jay DeMarcus 3000/1
Vince Carter 3000/1
Kathryn Tappen 5000/1
Larry The Cable Guy 5000/1
Ray Romano 5000/1
John O’Hurley 5000/1
Herm Edwards 5000/1
Johnny Damon 5000/1
Demarcus Ware 5000/1
Charles Barkley 7500/1