Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo drew the crowds in his grand return to the Ozarks on Thursday, interacting with spectators even during his round before gladly signing autographs and posing for selfies afterward.
Yet now comes the challenge: Can he make the cut and advance to the weekend of the PGA Korn Ferry Tour’s Price Cutter Charity Championship presented by Dr Pepper?
Romo fired an even-par 72 on the opening day of the 32nd annual PCCC at Highland Springs Country Club, where he threatened to sink several birdies before putts seemed allergic to the cup. He’ll need those Friday in a tournament that traditionally sees its weekend groups going on birdie binges.
For instance, morning round leader Chase Johnson finished at 9-under par 63 thanks to birdying half the 18 holes.
“It’s fun having (spectators) around. The support was great today, and you could feel the energy if you made a good putt or hit a good shot,” said Romo, who drew a following of roughly 60 fans after he began his round on No. 10.
He won them over early. On the par-5 No. 11, he rallied to make par after his tee shot flew left into the left-side trees and his second approach sliced into trees on the right side of the fairway. After sinking his putt, he turned to the crowd and said, “It looked like a 5 all the way.”
On the par-5 No. 8, he reached the green in two shots thanks to using a 3-wood on his drive and approach and told the gallery, “It looked like you needed some excitement.”
Still, Romo expressed frustration, saying that he should have carded a 68. He birdied two holes and bogeyed twice (3, 6), but left some birdies out there. Four putts on his first nine holes – they were roughly 12-, 17-, 20 and 15-yard yard attempts – were just short of the cup.
“I did a lot of good things. I was 2-under going into my 12th hole on No. 3, and hit a really big drive,” Romo said, explaining he was about 66 yards from the cup on the par-4 before his approach landed on the other side of the green, on a slope.
“I was sitting there perfect, and then hit it a little too aggressively. That’s the one right there that I thought I could have gotten to a 3.”
Romo’s appearance came a year after he played four holes and then withdrew after experiencing pain in his left wrist. After Thursday’s round, he said he ultimately had a hamate bone surgically removed after last year’s PCCC.
“I’m excited about (Friday). I think I can shoot a pretty low number. Today was a little about getting over the nerves,” said Romo, who is playing on an unrestricted exemption. “It’s doable. Sometimes, the swing, just the momentum of it, will get you going. Today, I didn’t take advantage of some of the opportunities.”
Meanwhile, Johnson was the leader after Thursday’s morning round. He birdied Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 10, 12, 16 and 18.