Rhoden in position to win tourney for seventh time
STATELINE, Nev. -- Billy Joe Tolliver had a pair of eagles to take a narrow lead over six-time champion Rick Rhoden in the 16th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe on Saturday.
Tolliver, a former NFL quarterback who won the tournament in 1996, made a 40-foot eagle putt on the 501-yard, par-5 18th to shoot a 3-under-par 69 and post 56 points in the modified Stableford scoring system that puts a premium on eagles and birdies.
Rhoden, the former pitcher who has won the tourney more than anyone else, had 54 points after carding four birdies and two bogeys for a 2-under 70. Chris Chandler also eagled the last hole for a 70 and 51 points, followed by Trent Dilfer with 48 points and Mark Rypien with 47.
"It will probably come down to the last hole,'' Rhoden predicted for Sunday's final round to be televised by NBC Sports.
Tolliver hit a 5-iron about 220 yards to the 536-yard, par-5 fourth and made a 15-foot eagle putt "on the last roll.'' On the 18th, he hit a drive about 370 yards then a sand wedge about 130 yards to within 40 feet "and got lucky.''
"The tough part for the rest of us is [Rhoden] had his bad round today and still shot under par,'' Tolliver said.
Rhoden, who played in the Senior U.S. Open two years ago and qualified for this year's Senior PGA, said he missed several makeable birdie putts at the 7,072-yard Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
"It was just sort of a ho-hum round,'' Rhoden said. "I only birdied one of the par fives and out here you have to birdie at least two of them I think, two or three.''
Dan Quinn, the former NHL who won three of the last four tourneys at Tahoe, shot a 71 Saturday and was in eighth place with 41 total points. The modified Stableford awards six points for eagle, three points for birdie, one point for par, zero for bogey and minus two for double bogey or worse.
Tolliver said he would have had a better score but shanked his tee shot on the par-3 3 12th.
"It was a stellar shot. Dead sideways. Very impressive,'' he joked after the round. "I'm about 3-under at the time thinking, 'Yeah, you're a pretty decent player.' And I still hit shank-bait out there, nothing to it. I like to show them my skills every once in a while.''
One of the largest galleries Saturday followed the threesome at the bottom of the leaderboard -- Charles Barkley, Chris Webber and Brad Garrett.
Garrett, a standup comedian who co-starred as the hulking, older brother Robert in "Everybody Loves Raymond,'' entertained the crowd with nonstop one-liners as Barkley and Webber battled it out for a personal $50,000 side wager to benefit charity.
For the second day in a row, Barkley opened his round by driving into the gallery before Garrett stepped to the tee.
"Can you raise your hand, the person that Charles hit? Because I'd like to mix it up,'' Garrett said before he too hit into the crowd nearly going out-of-bounds. "I'm not OB, right? There's just someone bleeding.''
By the end of the day, Barkley had three bogeys and 15 double bogeys or worse and was in last place with minus-57 points. Garrett is in second-to-last with minus-53 and Webber just ahead at minus-48 points.
Barkley took some solace in the fact Friday's playing partner, NFL all-time sack leader Bruce Smith, nearly hit a boat along the 17th hole.
"I just hit people,'' Barkley said. "I don't hit boats.''
Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press
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