Tim Tebow is playing baseball. Conor McGregor is taking a shot at boxing. And now Stephen Curry, who does some amazing things on the basketball court, is going to see how he fares at professional golf.
Curry will tee it up on the Web.com Tour, the tier just below the PGA Tour, in the Ellie Mae Classic in Hayward, starting today. He received a sponsor’s exemption into the event.
Curry’s handicap has been variously reported as falling somewhere between 2 and scratch. That’s good enough to destroy most recreational golfers. But professionals have handicaps that go far beyond scratch, into the plus numbers.
Last month, Curry was a strong fourth in the American Century Championship, a celebrity event. But that was against the likes of Marshall Faulk, Justin Timberlake and Larry the Cable Guy, not hungry aspiring pros.
Oddsmakers don’t like his chances. BookMaker.eu at one point offered 9-1 on Curry making the cut, but that number is now up to 13-1. (Last year’s cut was 3-under par.)
And forget about winning. The Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook opened Curry at 3,000-1.
“I’m staying realistic,” Curry told ESPN, sensibly. “The cut would be — if I can just give myself a chance, like go into Friday with a realistic chance to make it — that would be amazing. I want to know what that adrenaline rush is like, because for me, that would be like winning the tourney.”
“I hit it a pretty good ways, but not as far as these guys,” he told the Mercury News. “Most of the courses I play, I’m not playing their yardages, and I don’t hit as many drivers off the tee. So I just have to get comfortable with hitting the driver a lot more.”
Don’t count on Curry even winning his opening threesome. His partners, Sam Ryder and Stephan Jaeger, are No. 2 and No. 3 on the money list and probably bound for the big tour next year.
Taylor Moore, a pro who played a practice round with Curry, told the Mercury News: “I think he’s going to beat a couple guys. His game is good enough to do that.” He added, “It would be tough for me to go in an NBA game and score 20.”
A few other athletes from other sports have found their way into pro golf events over the years. Jerry Rice played several Web.com events a few years back and struggled to break 80, as did John Smoltz.
Mark Rypien, the onetime Washington Redskins quarterback, went one better in 1992, playing with the big boys at the Kemper Open on the PGA Tour. He missed the cut by 28 shots.
Many pro athletes play golf, sometimes a lot of it. That work and their natural athleticism may make them a lot better than you or me.
But playing at this level against golfers just a step below the best in the world is a tall order.