Mac Engel

The PGA Tour has a major Tony Romo problem on its hands

Your golf event is not looking good when the most captivating person to follow is wildly popular for his ability to see football plays into the future rather than hitting PGA Tour caliber shots.

Tony Romo has no business playing in The Nelson and he knows it, but both extending and accepting the invite are solid scores for the PGA Tour event this week in Dallas.

Who knows what Lord Byron would think about this, but the most interesting player to watch at the 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson Invitational at Trinity Forest Golf Club this week is Tony Romo.

I want to watch Tony Romo play golf more than I do any of these other guys who actually earned their way to a spot in this field rather than receive an invite because they’re famous. That’s a problem.

Rather than avoid it, both the PGA Tour players and PGA Tour itself should just embrace this reality: Tony Romo is good for the game, and allowing a few more of these sponsorship exemptions helps more than it harms a Tour that becomes whiter, and more exclusive, by the day.

Provided the player has a respectable handicap, every second or third tier PGA Tour event should have these type of Romo inclusions. PGA Tour events need eyeballs, and Romo will bring them.

Romo is scheduled to tee off on Thursday at 1:40 p.m. as an amateur.

Other than Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth, the common golf fan won’t know a single name in a field that would make Mr. Nelson quite sad at reviewing. Does the common sports fan know Koepka, even if his resume says we should?

Of course, golf has had this issue for decades. But a tournament that boasts Mr. Byron Nelson’s name merits a field better than just one name ranked in the top 30.

The good people at The Byron issued the following statement on Tuesday: “As of now, the TOUR doesn’t have plans for a Tony Romo press conference.”

Why not? Who cares if he doesn’t want to do it? He’s playing in a PGA Tour event only because he’s Tony Romo; if AT&T wants a Tony Romo presser, there should be a Tony Romo presser.

He could actually talk about golf with good insight; CBS should put him in the booth for a tournament or two; Colonial, put Romo in the booth for the Chuck Schwab Challenge in a few weeks.

The PGA Tour pros are respectful about the tournament invites to guys like Romo, but beneath their “support” they seethe at these types of sponsorship exemptions. The complaint is such invites are disrespectful “to the game;” having Romo in The Nelson is no different than The Colonial inviting Annika Sorenstam.

Once a “game” embraces cash flow, the latter is the priority. To heck with “respecting the game.” All Tour players should be smart enough to recognize that.

“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,” Koepka said in a media session on Tuesday. “We keep saying we need to grow the game but the whole object would be to get fans out here. You can criticize (Romo’s spot) all you want but it’s bringing people out here to watch golf and, who knows, they bring their families and kids.”

There is a line; a PGA Tour event can’t morph into a celebrity Pro Am with Kim Kardashian as a featured player... although, I may watch that.

This is not to espouse inviting Tyreek Hill to play in the PNC Father Son Challenge in Orlando December 5 - 8. Putting Charles Barkley, a noted terrible golfer, to play in The Chubb Classic would be embarrassing.

Tony Romo is a wonderful athlete who is a top tier golfer. Remember, he won an amateur event in Racine, Wisc. last year. The field wasn’t exactly stacked with Tiger and Phil, but these were not a collection of weekend hacks.

And Romo won the American Century Championship celebrity event, which was loaded with good golfers, last year in Tahoe.

Had Romo concentrated on golf rather than football decades ago, he may actually be a PGA Tour player.

But he’s not on the PGA Tour because he didn’t earn the coveted, insanely difficult, spot. He’s a retired NFL player turned broadcaster who is famous. And we can’t help it; we love to watch famous people eat cereal, leaving a Starbucks, or hitting a golf ball.

In 2019, fame is a talent and a virtue.

So embrace Romo at The Nelson, and maybe between his strokes you’ll watch the other guys, too.

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