Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is making his PGA Tour debut next month in the Dominican Republic.
As a player, not a broadcaster.
Romo, now the lead NFL analyst for CBS Sports, has received a sponsor’s exemption to play in the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship on March 22-25. The first-year event is held opposite the Dell Technologies Match Play, a World Golf Championships event that attracts the top 64 in the world.
“You never know how good you are until you go play and perform,” Romo said Wednesday. “Obviously, the odds going against these guys are not great. I think we all know that. But I think that’s what makes it really fun and enjoyable. I also think that the challenge that’s presented is what a competitor really wants.”
He joins a short list of athletes who have tried to compete against those who play for a living.
Mark Rypien, the former Washington Redskins quarterback, played the Kemper Open in 1992. He shot rounds of 80-91 and missed the cut by 27 shots.
Ken Harrelson, an All-Star outfielder for the Boston Red Sox in 1968, qualified for the 1972 British Open at Muirfield and missed the cut by one shot. John Brodie qualified for the U.S. Open while playing for the San Francisco 49ers and later won on the PGA Tour Champions circuit.
Most recently, Golden State Warriors guard Steph Curry played a Web.com Tour event outside San Francisco. He shot 74-74 and missed the cut by 11 shots.
Tournaments are allotted unrestricted exemptions — Michelle Wie received them when she was a teenager — and there invariably are complaints from other players who might feel as though he is taking a spot from someone who has a better chance.
“I know a lot of these guys, so I’ll just tell them, ‘Get out there. Let’s play a couple rounds and see what happens.’ I’ll joke with them a little bit,” Romo said. “But I think if you play good, they will respect you. If you don’t play good, then you really aren’t going to be respected very well. If you hit a 5-iron … and you can put it to a back right pin and fade it in there, they’re going to respect you. And if you can’t, then you’ll probably get some blow back.
“So I understand that,” he said. “That’s why you’ve got to go out there and play well.”
Romo has tried to qualify for the U.S. Open three times, most recently failing to advance from the first stage a year ago. He reached the final stage in 2010 and was tied for 10th after the first 18 holes. But he started the next round with a quadruple bogey and was 7 over when play was stopped for the second time because of weather. The Cowboys had an organized team activity the next day and he had to withdraw.
Romo has a plus-3 handicap index out of Dallas National Golf Club and occasionally plays with Jordan Spieth. Romo says those rounds take the longest because he’s asking Spieth for advice on his game.
He also began seeing Spieth’s chiropractor, Troy Van Biezen, to help recover from back surgeries that forced him out of football. Romo is playing this week at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with Will Zalatoris. Romo will play from the forward tees as an amateur.
“His short game is fantastic,” Spieth said. “He’s walking in putts from 15 feet at home. … His muscle memory, his hand-eye coordination is really special. So I have no doubt he’ll shoot under par every round out here from where they’re playing from. And he’s really excited for the challenge and he wants to beat the pros that are in his group. That’s kind of his goal. I mean, he thinks he can win this golf tournament if he played it with us.”
Romo said if he played well, he would be open to more sponsor exemptions.
“If you don’t play well … it’s like a free agent in football,” he said. “You get one shot. Hopefully, you do well.”