30 Wednesday morning, standing in the center of a crowd of some 200 people sloshing their way through the morning dew. Most of them hadn’t seen him before, and despite the relaxed nature of the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am, he put on a show with his muscular drives that, time and again, traveled well over 300 yards.
And he did it all with his playing partner - some guy named Eldrick - dunking his first shot of the day in a lake on the par-3 10th.
What, you thought Tiger Woods was the main draw at his own event? Maybe, but he wasn’t the subject of most of the cheers and catcalls from the crowd Wednesday morning. That would be Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, who stepped right into the middle of a small firestorm at the pro-am preceding this week’s AT&T National.
Woods, who knows Romo through a number of mutual friends - most notably his swing coach Hank Haney - invited the U.S. Open hopeful to play with him Wednesday because of Romo’s reputation as a scratch golfer. Those two, combined with House Minority Leader John Boehner, Ohio Republican, headlined the top foursome of the morning (Tom Dundon, a Dallas-based car broker and friend of Romo’s, rounded out the foursome, which admirably posted a combined score of 9-under par).
Romo’s girlfriend, pop singer Jessica Simpson, was on hand to perform the national anthem at the tournament’s opening ceremonies.
But here’s the problem with all that: Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell was also playing the pro-am. That little snub generated a fair amount of attention leading up to the tournament.
“For him to come to D.C., certainly I didn’t realize it was going to be this big a deal,” Woods said Tuesday. “He is a big golf nut and loves to play golf and has tried qualifiers for U.S. Opens before… and it’s just going to be a fun round but also an interesting one. Granted, he’s used to getting booed, and it is what it is. It comes with being, I guess, [in a] team sport away from home.”
Backed by a surprisingly large throng of Cowboys fans, many decked out in Romo jerseys, the quarterback took the attention in stride and held his own, playing 17 of the 18 holes from the back tees and outdriving Woods on several holes, though he lost the side bet between the two.
“Added to my spending fund, which was nice,” Woods joked during the opening ceremonies.
(Woods was wearing a white hat, blue golf shirt and gray pants. He could have passed for one of Cowboys coach Wade Phillips’ assistants.)
Romo smiled all morning both at supporters and hecklers, with the latter group getting bigger after the foursome made the turn. Asked before the second hole whether he was under par, Romo shouted back, “Who cares?”
His game also left a sizable impression on fans mostly familiar with him on a football field.
“I’m surprised how consistent he is,” said Brian Pettaway, a Centreville resident and Redskins fan who came out with his employer mostly to watch Woods. “He’s outdriven Tiger, and he’s more accurate with his driver.”
Reggie Pace, a network engineer from Fort Washington, grew up a Cowboys fan and got tickets to the pro-am a week ago when he heard Woods and Romo were playing together. He came dressed in a blue No. 9 jersey and a red Tiger Woods hat.
“It’s a dream pairing,” he said. “This is why I got off work.”