The Rick Rhoden dynasty has officially ended. The former Major League pitcher and eight-time American Century Championship winner has posted his two worst finishes (a tie for eighth followed by sixth place) the last two years in the most famous celebrity golf tournament in the country.
In fact, he is not even favored to win this year's event. That honor belongs to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo. Romo was installed as the 5-2 betting choice with Rhoden next in line at 4-1. Those two are followed by the 2010 winner Billy Joe Tolliver (9-2), and then John Smoltz (5-1). Four-time tournament winner Dan Quinn is 7-1 while defending champion Jack Wagner and Jeremy Roenick (tied for third last year) are next at 8-1.
The three-day golf event at the Edgewood Golf Course begins on Friday, July 20 and ends Sunday, July 22. The point totals for the 54-hole tournament are based on a modified Stableford scoring system with the higher total the better. Players receive 10 points for a double eagle, eight for a hole-in-one, six for an eagle, three for a birdie, and one for par. Golfers also get zero for a bogey and a minus two for a double-bogey or higher.
In the nine years the Stableford scoring format has been in use, Rhoden has won three times (2003, 2008, 2009), Tolliver (2005 and 2010) and Wagner (2006 and 2011) have taken the crown twice, while Quinn (2004) and Chris Chandler (2007) have each tasted victory once.
Four golfers - John Elway, Wagner, Mike Eruzione, and Jim McMahon - have taken part in all 22 matchups over the years. Wagner, the lone winner of the four, has the strongest 2010-11 total of anyone in the competition with a win and a tie for second. Romo is next with back-to-back second-place finishes, by himself last year and in a tie with Wagner in 2010. In fact, Romo has now been a bridesmaid the last three years after a tie for third in his initial start at Lake Tahoe back in 2008.
Speaking of Romo, he will see a lot of friendly faces for the first time in the tournament. Two of this year's new entrants are teammates Jason Witten and Miles Austin. Other newcomers to the field are quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick, Alex Smith, and Christian Ponder, as well as head coaches Urban Meyer and Sean Payton.
Fitzpatrick (15-1) is getting the most respect of all the first-timers with Witten, Ponder, and Payton next at 30-1.
Who will win the 2012 title? It's tough to go against Romo as he is in prime position to win for the first time. Rhoden is on the down side, Tolliver was never in the hunt last year finishing in a tie for 13th, Smoltz has only one top-six finish, and Quinn has been a non-factor the last two years.
In addition, Wagner finished in a tie for seventh in 2007, the year after winning his first championship so don't expect him to win two years in a row. Jeremy Roenick, the only other golfer with odds below 10-1, had his best finish last year (a third-place tie) but was still 11 points behind Romo for second place.
One long shot to keep in mind is Oliver Hudson. the son of actress Goldie Hawn. Hudson tied Romo for the top point total in last year's second day with a 27 and wound up fifth. That performance was a huge jump from 27th the year before and 25th in 2009. Hudson is a healthy 20-1 to win his first American Century Championship crown.