Playing in his third PGA Tour event since retiring from the NFL in 2016, Tony Romo’s first round at the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday got off to a promising start before unraveling over the last 10 holes.
The lone amateur in the field, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback opened with a birdie on the par-5 opening hole and although he gave the stroke to par back a few holes later, sent a good-sized gallery into a frenzy when he reached 2-under par for the day after eagling the par-5 7th.
“It was fantastic. It was really enjoyable,” Romo said, according to PGATour.com. “I could feel the energy and just feel them pulling for you. Made me feel good inside. Nice gesture by the fans today.”
Following a par at the par-3 8th, some inconsistent driving cost Romo as he attempted to post a solid number. He suffered three penalty strokes resulting from wayward drives, playing the final 10 holes in 7-over par and dropping from inside the cut line to 5-over par and well outside of the number.
A +0.4 handicap, Romo’s inclusion in any event raises eyebrows, which is exactly what the sponsors are trying to do with their special exemptions. While some bemoan his invites saying they are coming at the cost of other lower-tier pros’ opportunities, Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka disagree.
“Tony is an unrestricted free agent — I’m sorry, he was an unrestricted free agent at one point,” Spieth said mixing up a football term with the type of sponsor’s exemption Romo received. “(He was an) ‘unrestricted exemption’, meaning it’s not taking away from (anyone). The whole Web.com category got in and he receives an exemption and I think it provides a boost for the tournament for sure.”
“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.”