A chip-in eagle – and then reality – for Romo
May 09, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Shot of the Day
Tony Romo's clutch chip-in eagle for Shot of the Day
DALLAS – Cowboys fans and curiosity seekers – two groups definitely not mutually exclusive – generated an impressive gallery for the lone amateur in the field Thursday at Trinity Forest. And for the first two hours, it appeared they might see something truly special.
Former Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, was 2 under through his first eight holes, fueled by a 66-foot chip-in for eagle at the par-5 seventh.
At that point, even Romo couldn’t contain his excitement, offering a couple of first pumps and a “Let’s go” shout. Suddenly, the AT&T Byron Nelson had turned into AT&T Stadium. Suddenly, Trinity Forest had become the Philadelphia Eagles.
Reality soon kicked in, though. Romo -- playing in his third PGA TOUR event since retiring from football after the 2016 NFL season -- struggled off the tee, eventually suffering two double bogeys and three bogeys in his final 10 holes for a 5-over 76. That left him T-148th among the 155 players on the leaderboard.
Afterward, he wasn’t sure if he should feel encouraged or discouraged. He’ll need to go low Friday to have any chance of making the cut, but on the flip side, it’s a respectable score at a big boy golf event.
One thing he was sure of – he adored the crowd support.
“It was fantastic. It was really enjoyable,” Romo said. “I could feel the energy and just feel them pulling for you. Made me feel good inside. Nice gesture by the fans today.”
Romo is playing this week on an unlimited sponsor’s exemption, one of four issued by tournament officials (the other three went to Doug Ghim, Alvaro Ortiz and Thomas Pieters). Some have wondered if Romo took a spot away from someone in another category, but Jordan Spieth – who has played a number of times with Romo; they’re both Trinity Forest members – offered an explanation.
In fact, there was a little humor in it
“Tony is an unrestricted free agent -- I'm sorry, he was an unrestricted free agent at one point,” Spieth said, laughing at his own faux pas. “Unrestricted exemption, meaning it's not taking away from … the whole Web.com category got in and he receives an exemption and I think it provides a boost for the tournament for sure.”
Brooks Koepka, the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 8 in the FedExCup and No. 3 in the world, also had no problem with Romo’s appearance this week.
“He's going to bring fans out. I think … that's pretty obvious,” Koepka said. “You know, everybody has always got something to say about some sponsor invite and that's up to the sponsors."
“They bring in who they want to bring in. It's really nobody else's choice. … It's fun for us to see those guys and I think if they're going to bring a lot of fans, that's what we need. We keep saying we need to grow the game, but the whole object would be to get fans out here. You can criticize it all you want but it's bringing people out here to watch golf and, who knows, they bring their families and kids and might get them started in the game.”
There were certainly plenty of fans following Romo and his playing partners, former University of Texas players Scottie Scheffler and Dylan Frittelli. Interest was also generated in other areas. An ESPN report said more action in Las Vegas was placed on Romo to win – yes, his odds are extremely long -- than any other player in the field this week. And a local sports radio personality said he would give up his paycheck for the rest of his career if Romo is holding the trophy Sunday.
Sure, the fun is seeing a celebrity playing golf, but unlike most celebrities, Romo has a feel for the game.
“He's a very good player,” Spieth said. “Tournament golf, it is something different, something that's he's kind of the next stretch in trying to figure out and learn, where the leaves are, how to take away the big numbers, that kind of thing.”
In fact, Romo acknowledged the distinction between himself and the guys who make a living out of it. “The separation between these guys is the ability to do it for long stretches, consistency,” he said.
Romo’s stretch lasted about eight holes before those errant drives and windy conditions left him in places he knew he didn’t belong in. He hit just six of 14 fairways, the worst ratio in the field, and found just eight of 18 greens in regulation, among the worst of the day.
But as his last Cowboys coach, Jason Garrett, likes to say, it’s a process.
“Takes time,” Romo said. “… I've been practicing at this over a year. Like anything, you got to continue to get better and improve. You have the ability and you know how you to improve, you can get there.
“So, there's signs of life.”
There’s one thing, though, that Spieth is not sold on: Romo’s putting style. The two hadn’t played together for the last two months. Spieth was shocked to see the unusual putting style his friend is using now.
“Last time I saw him, he was putting normal. He's a good putter, too,” Spieth said. “Next thing I see, he's like trying some kind of side-saddle thing."
“I'll need to talk to him about that.”