STATELINE, Nev. – The celebrity golfers that compete at the American Century Championship have someone new to worry about this weekend in Annika Sorenstam.
Defending champion Billy Joe Tolliver, a four-time winner of the event, along with seven-time winner Rick Rhoden will have to contend with one of the most successful women's golfers of all time at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course.
Sorenstam, who is a member of the World Golf Hall of Fame and won 89 events, including 10 majors, is coming out of retirement this week to compete in the event for the first time.
"Even though she hasn't played, you know she's going to show up here ready to play," Rhoden said. "She's not going to embarrass herself. So I expect her to play really good. But I think we've got some guys here that can, if we play good, some of our guys, it would be just like always. I don't think anybody's going to run away with it."
Former NFL quarterback Tolliver won the event last year with a modified Stableford score of 67 (17-25-25). Rhoden, a former All-Star right-hander, has long dominated the event, and tournament mainstays such as former NFL quarterbacks John Elway and Mark Rypien and actor Jack Wagner are all back.
Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry, last year's surprise challenger, is back and ready to contend as is Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Other competitors include Pro Football Hall of Famers Steve Young and Jerry Rice and Baseball Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Ozzie Smith and Basketball Hall of Famer Charles Barkley.
Sorenstam is familiar with the event, having attended as a fan in previous years. She has maintained a residence in Squaw Valley's Incline Village and has played Lake Tahoe-area courses for years.
"As of today, pretty much all the money is on Annika," said Steve Schorr, the sportsbook director of Harrah's Lake Tahoe, the casino close to the course.
Tolliver owns the Stableford course record, an 84. He welcomes the pressure of being the favorite to compete against Sorenstam.
"No question, you would have to be a blithering idiot not to have respect for her credentials and what's she's done in her arena," Tolliver said. "Yes, she's definitely the favorite, the one to go beat."
Two other women will be in the field as well. Golf Channel host Lisa Cornwell and U.S. women's hockey player Hilary Knight will also compete against the men.