HAYWARD -- Stephen Curry's entry this week in the Bay Area's Web.com Tour professional golf event, the Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae, is generating a tremendous amount of intrigue, so much so that it's even drawn the attention of the gambling world.
At least one off-shore gambling website, BookMaker.eu, has come up with a list of prop bets on the Warriors star's projected performance in the tournament that begins Thursday on the PGA Tour-operated links-style layout in the Hayward hills.
Alas, despite Curry's impressive fourth-place finish in the American Century Championship on the shores of Lake Tahoe two weeks ago, the oddsmakers aren't giving Steph very good odds of doing well. It's one thing to show up Charles Barkley with a driver, wedge and putter, quite another to measure up to 140 hungry guys who play the sport to try and earn a living.
Curry is entered in the Stonebrae event on a sponsor's exemption, which has prompted at least some mild consternation in the golf world that he's taking up a spot of a bona fide aspiring player. The flip side is that his participation will provide considerable media attention to an event that otherwise wouldn't get much of a look -- or any kind of decent crowd -- to see just how good these Web.com players are.
Of course, the detractors will say we've seen this kind of stunt before at TPC Stonebrae with Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice. Rice played in the event over three straight years from 2010-12 and bombed miserably. His best performance actually came in his first try, when he shot 83-76, yet he still finished next to last that year. Rice did beat out pro Brendon Todd by a stroke, and Todd actually went on to win a PGA Tour event in 2014.
The next year, however, Rice shot 81-82 -- 23 over par -- and finished last by eight strokes. Then, in his last go at it in 2012, he was even worse. He shot an opening-round 86 and withdrew after nine holes of his second round standing at 23 over par for just 27 holes.
But we would beg to differ that Curry, who will play his first official practice round at Stonebrae Tuesday, will be another Rice-like flop. There are some significant differences between Curry and Rice in this ambitious golf scenario that perhaps afford Curry a little better chance, and perhaps a lot better one. The first is age. Rice didn't even take up the sport until after his long football career was over, and while he made rapid progress to become a decent amateur player, he was in his late 40s when he debuted at Stonebrae in 2010. Curry, on the other hand, is just 29 and in the prime of his athletic career, with his competitive drive at its absolute peak.
Curry, who plays out of California Golf Club and is essentially a scratch golfer with a current handicap index of +0.1, has also played golf a lot longer than Rice. He was on the Charlotte Christian High golf team as a teenager, and by the time he was a senior, was the No. 1 player on the team. He plays often and understands the game's subtle nuances, and the crowds don't seem to bother him much despite the change of sporting venue. In addition to wowing the folks at the American Century celebrity event with a final-round 68, Curry played shoulder-to-shoulder with pro Justin Thomas in the Frys.com Open pro-am two years ago and acquitted himself very well. He's also had experience playing alongside some pretty big names -- President Barack Obama, for instance.
According to the USGA handicapping website, Curry has played 20 rounds since mid-May and only twice shot as high as 80 or worse. He's consistently in the mid-70s, occasionally lower. And that 68 in the American Century got his handicap down to its lowest point of the year. So if nothing else, he's going into Stonebrae with his game as sharp as it may be considering he's barely more than a month removed from winning the NBA championship.
With that in mind, here's a look at the prop bets set by BookMaker.eu accompanied by an assessment of each bet:
Will Curry make the cut?
Assessment: It's a little surprising the odds of 9-1 against making it are this good because Curry has almost no chance to be playing after Friday's second round. The Web.com Tour simply has too many terrific players, many of whom bounce back and forth on the fringe of the PGA Tour. Curry would likely have to shoot in red numbers both days as last year's cut line at Stonebrae was 3-under par. Sixty-eight players shot 68 or better in last year's first round, and in the second round, an astounding 94 players shot 68 or better. Also, consider this: According to Golf Channel's Justin Ray, there have been 23 past attempts by athletes from other sports to play in a Web.com event, and none have made the cut. Not only that, none has even carded a round in the 60s. Sorry, Steph, best move on to some of these other possible wagers.
Curry's highest score for any round?
Over 79.5: -130
Under 79.5: +100
Assessment: On the notion that Curry is a better player than Rice, the under might be a good play here. While it's unlikely you're going to see him fire a 72-71, it's not that far-fetched based on his American Century effort to see him go something like 78-76. That's five strokes better than Rice's first-year performance, which seems reasonable. You know that Curry, the ultra-competitor, definitely will be using J.R. as a major barometer.
Curry's lowest score for any round?
Over 76.5: -115
Under 76.5: -115
Assessment: This one's a little tougher, but we'll give Steph the benefit of the doubt and say he's at least good enough for a 76. And it would not be that surprising to see him shoot a 73 or 74, especially if Andre Iguodala is in the gallery providing some incentive. And you can bet he'll be getting some encouragement and maybe some putting pointers via text from his Under Armour colleague, Jordan Spieth.
Curry's highest score on any hole?
Over 7: -115
Under 7: -115
Assessment: Oh yeah. Easy. Take the over. Steph did actually post an 87 with the USGA during one of his rounds this month. Even if he plays well, at least one blow-up hole can almost be guaranteed at Stonebrae, which can lull a player into a false sense of security with its wide-open landscape. But there's tons of trouble if you stray too far from the fairway. Get in too deep and it's like having Patrick Beverley on your back.
Lowest score on any hole?
Over 3: +100
Under 3: -130
Assessment: Another easy one. As everyone knows, Curry can make some long ones. It says here he's a virtual lock to knock in at least one birdie from at least 23 feet, 9 inches (that's the max NBA 3-point distance, by the way). Probably more.
How many birdies will Curry card (for the tournament)?
Over 2.5: -115
Under 2.5: -115
Assessment: This is a lock. No way Curry plays 36 holes over the first two days and doesn't make three birdies. Seeing him do it on each of the first two days wouldn't be farfetched. The second day is probably the better bet, considering the nerves will have subsided a bit and Steph can be a little more free-wheeling and focused with his play. Remember, he also has a penchant for getting hot. Considering Web.com standout Stephen Jaeger shot a 58 here last year, three birdies in a round here doesn't sound unreasonable for Curry, let alone two. Even Rice made some birdies during his Stonebrae stints, and Curry will give himself more chances than Jerry did.
How many bogeys or worse will Curry card (for the tournament)?
Over 8.5: -115
Under 8.5: -115
Assessment: Another pretty solid lock. Hard to see how Curry won't make than more nine bogeys over 36 holes, especially if we stick to a prediction of 78-76. That's still at least 14 potential bogeys on the par-70 layout. That's a pretty challenging bar for Steph, but here's the real question: Can he get under the bar we've now set for him?
And do we have to jump in a lake like Dell Curry did if he does?
This article is written by Carl Steward from Mercury News and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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