Curry will showcase his golf talents against the pros via a sponsor’s exemption into the Ellie Mae, roughly a half-hour from the Warriors’ home court at Oracle Arena in Oakland. He faces a lot of demands on his time, but Curry has played 20 rounds of golf in the last five weeks and refines his putting stroke on his backyard practice green. His first taste of action in a tour event is not without controversy. Some claim he is taking the spot that would otherwise go to a deserving pro – only 17 percent of players on a Web.com sponsor’s exemption have made the cut and none have won. Others, however, suggest his presence will help raise awareness of the tournament.
One thing is not up for debate: Curry will draw the lion’s share of the attention as he unveils his swing for the Bay Area faithful. During the Tahoe event, he and playing partner Justin Timberlake entertained huge galleries with dance moves and an impromptu hoops shoot-around. Curry even found time to run a few pass patterns for Aaron Rodgers and Tony Romo. His game drew a lot of attention, too. Curry amassed 28 points, including an eagle on the par-5 18th, the best score during the final round of the 54-hole modified Stableford format. He finished behind former Major League pitchers Mark Mulder and Derrick Lowe, and ex-tennis player Mardy Fish.
Curry had plenty of fun at the celebrity event – where his dad had to pay off a pre-tournament bet by jumping into Lake Tahoe after losing to him—but there won’t be any distractions at Stonebrae, where he will be paired with men who play golf for a living. Curry, who just signed a five-year, $201 million contract extension, won’t starve if he misses the cut. But one of the NBA’s top competitors will still be striving to make it to the weekend. Here are nine questions with the man who has revolutionized the art of going deep:
1. Which is more difficult – a 4-footer, slight break, to win the U.S. Open, or three straight free throws to win the NBA championship when you’re down two points?
The 4-footer with the break has to be more difficult. There’s a lot more variables involved in executing that shot. With putting, I always like something straight on that I can get my rhythm going and knock it down. I can make those even with the pressure. But those putts you have to play outside the hole? Different deal. The putter could be shaking a bit and you have to judge the speed. I can walk out on the court any time and make three free throws, even with Finals pressure.
2. Do you pre-visualize a basketball shot in the same manner that you do a golf shot?
I do visualize in both sports. It’s an important part for me. But in golf you get much more of a chance to prepare for every shot. In basketball, things are moving so fast that you’re pretty much just reacting. In golf, you’re mainly reacting to weather conditions and pressure.
3. Which sport requires more preparation to properly execute shots?
They’re about equal. The biggest thing to remember is that the shots you take in practice in either sport are applicable to the shots you take in the games. Whatever you practice on the driving range you can take into tournament competition or a normal game. Same thing with the practice court and a real game. Muscle memory is very, very important. Reps count. You know when it feels good on the course or on the court because you practiced so much.
4. What was it like to play Augusta National with Warriors’ coach Steve Kerr and teammate Andre Iguodola?
It was a bucket-list kind of day. I’m a golf fanatic, so that pretty much means I was going to love it. How did I play? Well, I birdied No. 1. We don’t have to get into much detail besides that. But it didn’t matter all that much. It was unforgettable.
5. It’s a long way off, but have you ever thought of golf as a post-basketball career?
I’ve thought about it, mainly because I love the game so much. But you can’t make the mistake of thinking you can just jump into it. I realize how those guys out there have dedicated their lives to their sport, just like I have to mine. So I would never think it would be easy, and I have no idea if it’s in the cards. But I do have the mindset and the passion, and I know one thing: I’ll still be playing for a long, long time no matter what level it is.
6. You’ve played a lot of places. Any particular favorite holes?
I always remember two par 3s in particular. I had my only hole-in-one on the Ocean Course at Half Moon Bay (California). I hit a pitching wedge from about 140 yards and I saw it go in. The other one is No. 7 at Pebble Beach, where the 2019 U.S. Open will be played. You’re like on the edge of the earth, looking out into the Pacific. I don’t play it very well, but I did have a birdie there once.
7. How satisfying has it been to have started charity golf events in North Carolina? Tell us a little about them.
A: It’s been an amazing opportunity, an avenue to raise money for causes that are special to me. I was able to support the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson, N.C., which is right across from my college. It’s an after-school program that seeks to keep kids off the street. In five years we’ve raised more than $250,000, and, as is always the case with golf, everybody has enjoyed themselves while you’re giving back. Golf provides an unusual opportunity to do that.
8. Besides the spin that you can put on a basketball near the hoop, can you “work” a basketball shot left to right, like you can draw or fade a golf shot?
You definitely can. My basketball shot has a natural tendency to fade. It leaks a little bit from left to right, which, coincidentally, is the way I like to hit a golf ball. I don’t think my “slice” in basketball has anything to do with what happens in golf and, fortunately, I control my slice pretty well on the court. My fade on the course is a little more dramatic than the fade on my jump shot. But being able to move the ball is a cool part of the art of both sports.
9. Does your mind ever wander to golf when you're in a basketball game?
Well, maybe once in a while during timeouts. I remember we were playing in Orlando one night and I looked across the court and there was Bubba Watson. And I started thinking, “Man, what would it be like to be him, playing all the best courses in the world and getting ready for the Masters?” Or once in a while, a swing thought that I picked up on Golf Channel will run through my head and I'll spend a second or two on that. It happens sometimes but rarely does it happen during games.
Jack McCallum is the author of 11 books, as well as the upcoming GOLDEN DAYS: West's Lakers, Steph's Warriors and the California Dreamers Who Reinvented Basketball.