Bill Nichols

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Teamed with Tiger Woods, Cowboys QB Tony Romo wants big win

Since Tiger Woods picked Tony Romo as his partner for this week’s AT&T National Pro-Am at Pebble Beach, the Cowboys quarterback has been on a crash course to hone his game.

“He’s been calling me quite a bit, sending me video of his swing,” Woods said before Thursday's first round. “He’s competitive and he’s been grinding hard. It’s been cool to see. Post-football he wants to play golf. Maybe give it a run on the mini-tours and senior tour eventually.”

Romo is making his third straight appearance at Pebble Beach, having teamed with John Daly the previous two years. He also played with Woods in the pro-am of the AT&T National in 2009.

It’s hard to imagine a better celebrity partner for Woods’ first PGA Tour event of 2012. Like Woods, Romo is driven by competition. And he has enough game to get through local U.S. Open qualifying.

“He has a very good golf swing,” said Westlake’s Hank Haney, Woods’ instructor from 2004-10. “He hits it forever. There are a lot of guys on Tour who would like to hit their irons as well as Tony Romo.”

Romo approaches golf in much the same way he does football. He is looking for improvement each time he goes out.

Texas freshman Jordan Spieth of Dallas, No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, has played countless rounds with Romo at the TPC Four Seasons. The two have traveled together to the prestigious Azalea Invitational in Charleston, S.C., the past two years.

“He is unbelievably competitive,” Spieth said. “He is going to try to beat every single pro out there at Pebble Beach, and he believes he can.

“He’ll do whatever it takes to get better. He’ll ask me advice on things about golf; what kind of shot to play in a certain situation or strategy. And I always ask him about dealing with pressure. I’ve probably learned more from him.”

Romo has a seemingly unquenchable thirst for improvement, although he’s not big on pounding range balls. If he’s practicing at the Four Seasons Resort and Club at Las Colinas, he’ll ask Tim Cusick, director of instruction, for a look-see.

“He plays a lot with Tour players, and he does a good job of deciphering the information and incorporating it into his swing,” Cusick said. “He’s a very feel-oriented player. He relies on little connectors, things he’s picked up.”

Cusick, Northern Texas PGA Teacher of the Year in 2005 and 2009, worked with Romo last week in preparation for Pebble Beach. The primary adjustment was changing his takeaway to reduce pushed shots.

“I would say he’s above the average PGA Tour player in clubhead speed and distance,” Cusick said. “He generates a lot of power. He has a tendency, like a lot of good players, to block it. We worked on trying to get the takeaway to come straight up the plane line.”

Romo’s quarterback gig eats up a lot of potential golf time. Still, he manages to get his game in shape to compete in amateur and celebrity events.

He has attempted to qualify for the U.S. Open three times. To be eligible for qualifying, amateurs must have a handicap index, which measures scores in relation to par, no higher than 1.4.

But the closest he got was in 2010. He survived a four-man playoff to reach the final qualifying round but withdrew because of a weather delay. He also made the Monday qualifier for the HP Byron Nelson Championship but had to withdraw because of a conflict with a Cowboys workout.

Tournament officials at Pebble Beach initially gave Romo a plus-3 handicap, which would have added 3 strokes to his score. Woods laughed at that discrepancy.

“They want to give him a plus-3 handicap, which is complete BS,” Woods said. “I mean he’s a scratch. I play to a scratch every tournament, I’m a scratch.”

At Pebble Beach, Romo and Woods will compete in the pro-am format. Each team plays at Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterrey Peninsula Country Club the first three rounds. Then after the 54-hole cut, final round is at Pebble Beach.

“I’m anxious to see how he compares to Tiger,” said Haney, whose book The Big Miss: My Years Coaching Tiger Woods will be released in April.

Asked if Romo could make it on Tour if he quit his day job, Haney said, “Nope. He’s not a very good putter.”

Spieth said Romo could potentially make the Nationwide Tour.

“If he gave up being quarterback of America’s Team to play golf, he’d be successful,” Spieth said. “But I’d like to see him win a Super Bowl first.”

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