STATELINE, Nev. (AP) After struggling in the U.S. Senior Open a week ago, Rick Rhoden was back in his element Saturday atop the leaderboard of the celebrity golf tournament he's won six times.
The former major league pitcher went birdie-birdie-eagle during one stretch on the way to a 5-under 67 worth 51 points in the modified Stableford scoring system at the 18th annual American Century Celebrity Golf Championship at Lake Tahoe.
Ex-NHL great Grant Fuhr was second with 48 points, followed by former quarterbacks Chris Chandler and Mark Rypien with 47 headed into Sunday's final round at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course. The scoring system awards six points for eagle, three for birdie, one for par, zero for bogey and minus two for double bogey or worse.
Last week in his third U.S. Senior Open, the 54-year-old Rhoden shot 75-76 to miss the cut by three strokes at the links-style Whistling Straits and its 1,000-plus bunkers on the shores of Lake Michigan in Wisconsin.
"That's the hardest course I've ever played, by far," Rhoden said. "I've played Oakmont and it's not even close.
"So I think visually, you show up here and it looks 10 times easier after playing there," he said about the Edgewood layout with its lush, forgiving fairways winding through towering pines.
Rhoden was ineligible to play at Lake Tahoe last year because he qualified for conditional status on the PGA Champions Tour. He won the celebrity event in 1991-93-95-97-99 and 2003.
"Obviously, Rick's probably the best player out here. So he'll be a fun guy to chase," said Fuhr, who had four birdies and two bogies on Saturday in a round of 71. "You know Rick is not going to beat himself. That's something he's proved over the years."
After parring the first hole Saturday, Rhoden played the next three holes 4-under par, hitting a 6 iron 185 yards to within 2 feet of the hole on the 536-yard, par-5 fifth. He also birdied the eighth and then parred every hole on the back.
"I feel a lot better leaving today than I did yesterday, that's for sure," said Rhoden, who shot a 72 on Friday and started the day four points behind first-round leader Billy Joe Tolliver.
Tolliver, another ex-quarterback, has won the tournament twice. He shot 70 and tallied 28 points Friday, but had only 15 points on a round of 76 Saturday for a two-day total of 41.