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From the gridiron to the green: NFL's best golf tales

NFL players, executives and alumni fill the offseason with everything from side jobs to business openings to rounds of golf.

As the 2017 U.S. Open continues this week from Erin Hills Golf Course in Erin, Wisconsin, our curiosity got the best of us: Which NFL players are scratch golfers, which ones have played at major courses and which ones hadn't played a round of 18 until they got to the NFL.

Here's a collection of golf stories from around the football league:

Big Ben tough to take down on golf course, too

Handicap: Between a 0.4 and a 7

In January, PGA.com ranked Pittsburgh Steelers veteran Ben Roethlisberger the fourth-best golfer among NFL quarterbacks. Roethlisberger reportedly once sported an 0.4 handicap, and he shot an 81 at the brutally tough Bethpage Black in a pre-U.S. Open competition in 2009, according to the site. It's no surprise Big Ben is long off the tee. And with the scarcity of avid golfers on the Steelers' roster, Roethlisberger wins this honor by at least seven strokes (his number).

Steelers cornerback William Gay said there are many casual golfers in the Steelers' locker room, but mostly for charity events or the occasional Saturday outing. "But Ben really works at it," Gay said. "And he's talented."

The PGA said Roethlisberger might be closer to a 7 handicap lately, but someone who's familiar with his golf game says that number is too high. Those close to Roethlisberger consider him a motor-skills wizard. Basically, he can roll out of bed and score a 72 in golf, drain 3-pointers in basketball or blast sky balls in the team's annual home run derby at training camp.

As Golf Digest wrote in a recent ranking of the NFL's best golfers, "the two-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback of the Pittsburgh Steelers is as tough to beat on the golf course as he is to be taken down by one defender." -- Jeremy Fowler


Janikowski: 'When I golf, I swing hard'

Handicap: 10

The Oakland Raiders' all-time leading scorer picked up the game of golf in his second NFL season, way back in 2001, at the behest of then-punter Shane Lechler, who would spot SeaBass "10 or 12" strokes at first. A few years later, Sebastian Janikowski said, their head-to-head matches would come down to the 18th hole. Janikowski rules the Raiders' golf roost with a 10 handicap and takes on all challengers.

"I don't want to say I'm the best golfer, but it looks that way," Janikowski said with a laugh as he surveyed his teammates coming off the field following a recent organized team activity with his long-snapper Jon Condo offering a half-hearted protest.

He had a hole-in-one in a practice round at Las Vegas' Shadow Creek, No. 13, a few years back. "It was 194 [yards], I hit a 6-iron and it went in," Janikowski said. "I've got witnesses, too, my wife and I had a caddy. We were all looking for the ball -- 'Where did it go?' -- and it went in."

And yes, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Janikowski, who plays in the American Century Championship celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe every summer, sees similarities between his golf swing and his leg swing. "Yeah, it's a big connection," he said. "When I golf, I swing hard. I've got to slow down. Same thing with kicking. If you kick it hard, you're going to hook it. You've got to stay smooth. It's all technique."

Janikowski, the No. 17 overall pick of the 2000 NFL draft, has 1,799 career points, 10th most in NFL history, and also has a 63-yard field goal, second-longest in league annals. He has converted 80.4 percent of his career field goal attempts, 98.9 percent of his extra points. On the links, though, he said he has a new Callaway driver and uses a 4-wood. -- Paul Gutierrez

Elway's first hole-in-one came at age 40

Handicap: 1.7

The Denver Broncos have plenty of players who find their way to the first tee at some point each and every offseason, but the Broncos' golf alpha is still likely the guy who makes the football decisions for the organization.

John Elway, who is the honorary chairman of the 39th U.S. Senior Open (at the Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs in 2018), doesn't get to play nearly as much as he did before he accepted his current job, in which the Broncos have won five division titles in his six previous seasons on the job.

Though Elway sports a 1.7 handicap, he didn't really take up the game until he was in college at Stanford, and was 40 when he carded his first hole-in-one. Elway has called golf "a game you can play your whole life. It's different every day and I'm not sure you can really ever get your arms around it every time you play."

Elway has played in the Colorado Senior Open -- he was the low amateur after the opening round in 2010 -- and there was a time when he was one of just four people who had played in every American Century Championship celebrity tournament in Lake Tahoe. Elway has shot a round of 68 at Augusta and in a 2013 trip that included former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and former Broncos coach John Fox in the foursome, Elway fired a low round of 72. -- Jeff Legwold


McCoy has played Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill, others

Handicap: 6

Backup QB Colt McCoy is the best golfer on the Washington Redskins, though punter Tress Way is closing the gap. McCoy has a handicap of 6 and played on his high school golf team. McCoy didn't golf as much in college -- no money and couldn't accept free rounds, he said -- but he returned to the sport during his one year playing with the San Francisco 49ers. Then, he played Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, among others.

And in the Washington area he has played Congressional Country Club and Burning Tree and said he has broken 80 at most of the top courses in the area. Washington coach Jay Gruden's love of golf has led to invitations at nicer courses, but even McCoy wonders with two young daughters how much golf he'll continue to play.

Perhaps he can make more appearances on The Golf Channel? -- John Keim


Mannion: 'I just try to two-putt everything'

Handicap: 10

Long-snapper Jake McQuaide doesn't believe the Los Angeles Rams are a very good golfing team overall. "Our team is so young," he said, "we really don't have anyone who's a scratch."

McQuaide, a struggling golfer himself, gave the subject some thought after a recent practice and went through some names. Punter Johnny Hekker has been trying hard to get his game right, but he still needs work. Slot receiver Nelson Spruce has been playing a lot of golf, but he still has a ways to go, too. Tight end Tyler Higbee can crush the ball down the fairway, but he's raw in other areas. Finally, McQuaide settled on an answer.

"I'd say maybe Sean Mannion," he said, referencing the Rams' backup quarterback. "Maybe."

Mannion is allegedly a 10 handicap. He describes himself as a "free swinger" who struggles around the green. "I just try to two-putt everything," he said. Mannion has heard whispers that new left tackle Andrew Whitworth is very good, but the two have yet to play. Mannion may eventually have some competition. -- Alden Gonzalez


Taking putts with Fowler no small feat, says Weeden

Handicap: 0

Brandon Weeden has been playing golf since 2008 and was a walk-on for the Oklahoma State golf team. The Houston Texans backup quarterback said he has a 0 handicap. He said he is "no question" the best golfer on the team, although Shane Lechler is No. 2. The two played last spring at Bluejack in Texas and he "got him pretty good." Weeden finished the round at 72 and Lechler shot 82.

Weeden said one of the coolest golf moments for him was when he got to play with fellow Oklahoma State standout Rickie Fowler.

"When I was at Oklahoma State I was on the golf team, and Rickie Fowler came back," Weeden said. "I hadn't spent a bunch of time around him, but he came out and played 18 holes with us. Just to see that up close and personal ... it was amazing. He was hitting the driver in spots that most people wouldn't even think about. He played fast, he just hit the ball so well. There's a difference between PGA Tour guys and the guys that think they're good. And those guys are good."

Weeden's best score came at the Lakeside Golf Course in Stillwater, Oklahoma, where he shot a 67 and birdied the 18th. -- Sarah Barshop


Peterson's handicap a low one -- with help from YouTube

Handicap: 3.5

In a locker room full of talented golfers, it's Arizona Cardinals cornerback Patrick Peterson, though relatively new to the sport, who stands out. Which is a difficult thing to do considering he's going up against the likes of Larry Fitzgerald's 7 handicap and quarterback Carson Palmer, who regularly shoots in the 70s or low 80s.

Peterson, who took one lesson and then taught himself through YouTube videos, hasn't played as much as he would like since having a daughter in November 2015, but he's still a 3.5 handicap. Peterson is a familiar face on the pro-am circuit, playing often in the Waste Management Phoenix Open's, as well as the LPGA events that come through Arizona.

He also has become a staple at the American Century Championship in Lake Tahoe, where he finished tied for 22nd last year. Peterson also finished 31st in the Diamond Resorts Invitational in January. -- Josh Weinfuss


Davis, Kearse among Seahawks' best on the links

Handicaps: 1 and 12

Wide receiver Jermaine Kearse stopped a recent interview about his golf game and grabbed Seattle Seahawks quarterback Austin Davis as he ran off the field.

"He's talking about the best golfer on the team," Kearse told the team's' new QB. "I got nominated, but I quickly said Austin is."

Added Davis with a laugh, "There's a new sheriff in town."

Kearse said he plays about twice a week during the offseason and is a 12 handicap. He picked up the sport about four years ago and went to Pebble Beach this offseason. Davis, however, is a 1 handicap. The quarterback hadn't even been with the team for 48 hours when Kearse started grilling him about his golf game.

"There's limited golfers on the team, so when we get a golfer on the team, you make that connection real quick," Kearse said.

Davis and Kearse have plans to play together soon. "It is definitely the most frustrating sport," Kearse said. "Highs and lows. I broke 80 for the first time this year. I shot a 78. And then I backed that up with a 93. So that tells you how golf can be." -- Sheil Kapadia


Gostkowski shares similarities between golf, kicking

Handicap: 8.3

A few years ago, New England Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was listed with an 8.3 handicap index and compared golf to kicking on Sirius XM PGA Tour Radio: "A lot of it has to do with tempo and rhythm as far as the swing of the club and the swing of your leg. There is a lot of similarities. You can leave your club face open and spray it to the right.

"You can have your foot closed off too much, hit off the wrong part of your foot or club and the ball can go any which way. When it's windy, committing to a shot -- when it's breezy, swing easy -- I feel like that applies to golf and kicking field goals. Seeing the shot before you hit it. It's all mental." -- Mike Reiss