Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current CBS football analyst Tony Romo’s affection for the game of golf is well documented.
A serious player who boasts a +0.3 handicap, Romo competed in various amateur qualifiers and tournaments during his time in the NFL, but if his broadcast partner and CBS golf lead man Jim Nantz is to be believed, Romo may be taking his skills on the course to the highest level in the next few months.
Speaking with Golf.com’s Jessica Marksbury at the PGA Merchandise Show, Nantz dismissed rumors of Romo possibly entering the CBS golf booth by breaking an even bigger story: Romo is expected to play in a PGA Tour event this year.
But Jim Nantz said Wednesday that Romo, who is a near-scratch golfer, is actually planning to appear at a Tour event in a different capacity: as a competitor.
“He’s going to play in a Tour event,” Nantz told Golf.com’s Jessica Marksbury at the PGA Merchandise Show. “He’s going to get an exemption in the next — let’s just say two months. So he’s going to put it out there on the line.”
Nantz also addressed Marksbury about Romo’s rumored future in the golf broadcast booth. Speculation has surrounded whether the CBS football broadcasting tandem would reunite on the network’s golf coverage, but Nantz said that’s no sure thing.
— Awful Announcing (@awfulannouncing) January 26, 2018
Smart money would expect that a Romo start would come in one of the three non-WGC Texas-based tournaments. Aside from the Dean & Deluca Invitational at Colonial, which seems a little more unlikely given the tournament director’s comments below, the Houston Open and AT&T Byron Nelson also take part in the Lone Star State.
GolfDigest.com’s Alex Myers dug a little deeper into the Romo exemption plot, speaking with the aforementioned Dean & Deluca Invitational tournament manager Dennis Robison about sponsor exemptions.
In recent years, we’ve seen several sponsor’s exemptions given out on the Web.com Tour to celebrities from Jerry Rice to John Smoltz. Last year, Stephen Curry shot a pair of 74s to miss the cut at the Ellie Mae Classic, and country music star Jake Owen has been given a spot in this year’s Nashville Golf Open. The PGA Tour, on the other hand, has kept such celebrity appearances to pro-ams. At least, since 1992.
It was that year when Washington Redskins Super Bowl hero Mark Rypien was invited to play in the D.C.-area’s Kemper Open. Rypien shot rounds of 80 and 91 to finish dead last by 13 shots and miss the cut by 28 shots, which didn’t sit too well with PGA Tour pros. And now, at least one tournament manager thinks that quarterback’s performance could keep the former Cowboys QB from getting his crack inside the ropes.
“PGA Tour exemptions must be given to players who are trying to ‘make a living’ playing golf, or who soon expect to be making their living playing golf,” Dean & DeLuca Invitational tournament manager Dennis Robison told the Star-Telegram on Thursday. “It is affectionately referred to as the ‘Mark Rypien Rule.’”
But that doesn’t jibe with what the PGA Tour told GolfDigest.com on Friday. Vice president of communications Joel Schuchmann explained that unrestricted sponsor’s exemptions (spots that don’t have to be used for other PGA Tour pros) can be granted to any amateurs provided they have a USGA handicap of 0.0 or better. The criteria for such invites used to be 2.0 or better, but was made stricter in 2004, 12 years after Rypien’s rough start. (Rypien had a 1-handicap at the time.) However, Schuchmann also acknowledged that tournaments need to run any sponsor exemption requests that are outside the norm past the tour.
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