I’ve been meaning to use this Tony Romo zinger for over a month, or heck, I likely used a version of this in jest back in 2010 or 2012, but it was better that I waited so long after the fact because it works better in this context. Last month, it was announced that Romo, 14-year veteran quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, was officially retiring and joining CBS as the lead game analyst, where he’ll have the pleasure of sharing the booth with lead announcer Jim Nantz.
This is excellent news for Romo’s semi-serious golf career — no longer will his duties as the Cowboys QB interfere with his pursuit to qualify for big-time tournaments, even majors, like the U.S. Open. It was such a pain when he was criticized for prioritizing his golf hobby over his “real” job. I say that with only a hint of sarcasm, to be honest because I’ve watched him play and he is one of the few — if not only — (former) pro athlete with an actual shot or potential at success in the amateur ranks and perhaps beyond.
In 2010 Romo played well enough to advance from U.S. Open local qualifying to Sectionals. He opened with a promising and respectable 71 in the 36-hole qualifier, but only managed to play three holes in the second round because of a lengthy weather delay. He was eventually forced to withdraw because he was expected to be back in Dallas for an offseason scheduled practice.
Earlier that year, he played his way through the pre-qualifier to advance to the Monday qualifier (four-spot) during the Byron Nelson Championship. He ultimately chose not to play because it interfered with a voluntary offseason Cowboys practice (and if I recall correctly, Dallas fans were critical of his priorities).
Romo was plagued with health setbacks in the last four or so years of his NFL career. He dealt with several back injuries, along with a broken collarbone, among other ailments. There were rumors in recent months that Romo would be traded or released after a preseason injury in 2016 sidelined him, leaving him to watch Dak Prescott lead the Cowboys to 13 wins, the NFC East title and the playoffs.
It’s been reported that just shy of Romo’s 37th birthday, he realized his body couldn’t handle the physical demands that ultimately led him to the difficult decision to retire. Sounds like a great move in the long run for Romo. I mean, not everyone or anyone gets the lead analyst job with no previous broadcasting experience. Most important, he no longer needs to worry about football and future potential injuries interfering with his golf career!
Obviously, a broken collarbone and several back injuries kept him from working on his golf game and playing in tournaments and qualifiers. He entered the U.S. Open local qualifying at Split Rail Links & Golf Club in Aledo this past Monday. With this year’s championship held at Erin Hills in Romo’s home state of Wisconsin, the potential for this wonderful storyline was drool-worthy stuff.
Romo shot a 3-over 75 and fought hard on the back nine after he posted 39 on the front, and he still had a slim chance to secure one of the seven coveted spots for Sectionals. He eagled no. 14, but then followed it with a triple-bogey, which cut his run short. Romo fell six shorts short of qualifying, but I wouldn’t read much into this. Sounds like he’s had an extended break from golf and is just dusting off some rust and getting back into the groove.
“From the moment I stepped on the course, I really felt the love and energy from all the people here,” Romo said, according to USA Today. “I tried to give them some things to be excited about, and I had some good moments out there. But I had four 3-putts and the one bad hole and that was it. I was encouraged with how I played overall. I just need to get out and do more of this kind of thing. I need to play in more tournaments because golf and tournament golf are two totally different deals.”
Here’s a live-blog via ESPN, if you want a detailed play-by-play rundown of Romo’s round — which includes videos and pictures.
Like I mentioned, Romo is the only former/current pro athlete that I believe actually has enough talent and game to at the very least become a legit amateur competitor. Many celebs/athletes have what many would consider “vanity” handicaps, but Romo is a legit scratch.
Rewind to five years ago at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am. In 2012 Romo teamed up with Tiger Woods at the event, which marked TW’s American debut that year, a YUGE deal. I was tasked with covering the tournament for Golf.com. Thus, I had the pleasure of watching every single hole in all four rounds that Woods and Romo played. And Woods, who played well the first three days to earn a tee time with Phil Mickelson (who shot an impressive 8-under to win) on Sunday, faltered in the final round, posting a 75.
Now, I know Romo was playing from different tees than Tiger, but I am 99.8% certain Romo shot at worst an even-par 72. Yep, Romo beat Tiger that day. And screw the “he wasn’t playing from the tips” argument, he showed game in that final round. He started a little shaky in the first round — likely due to nerves.
Romo has mentioned plans to enter the Western Amateur and also attempt to qualify for the U.S. Mid-Am. Now those are big-time amateur events — the kind that attracts serious competitors. I’d say Romo is finally getting to focus on what was formerly a passionate hobby. And if any former pro athlete has a shot at a potential in the Champions Tour, Romo is certainly the best bet, but of course, that will also depend on whether his body will cooperate and his previous injuries won’t resurface or haunt him in the future. Here’s hoping…
Back to this new Romo and Nantz partnership. Well, they share at least one passion other (or more than perhaps?) the NFL: Golf, of course. I mean, maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think it is — Nantz seems to hold his duty as the longtime host of the Masters as the most cherished and beloved honor, not to mention his unabashed favorite week of the year.
Considering Nantz has what many sports fans would consider the best job in the world, as the lead announcer for CBS in everything from the Super Bowl to the NCAA Men’s Final Four, he really, genuinely loves golf. (I was amazed when I met him IRL in 2010 that his on-air personality was 100% real. He was basically a caricature of himself — I mean, he recited his famed lines from the Masters multiple occasions, like not in a self-deprecating manner; just simply because he loves that week so damn much. Even if you want to dislike him and try really hard, you ultimately can’t — but this does not prohibit anyone from poking fun of Nantz in a good-natured manner.)
Per his CBS profile, in 2007 Nantz became the first commentator in *history* to complete the rare “three-feat,” broadcasting the Super Bowl, Final Four and Masters all within a span of 63 days. He’s since gone on to repeat this trifecta in 2010, 2013 and 2016.