Romo skips qualifying, starts OTAs

Updated: May 17, 2010, 11:38 PM ET
By Calvin Watkins | ESPNDallas.com

IRVING, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo did not participate in qualifying for the HP Byron Nelson Championship on Monday and instead took the field with his team.

Romo's 10:57 a.m. ET tee time for qualifying at Stonebridge Ranch Country Club's Hills Course in McKinney, Texas, conflicted with the first day of the Cowboys' organized team activites, which began at noon ET.

Romo needed a rain delay of about three hours in order to make his tee time. There was a 20 percent chance of rain Monday in Dallas-Fort Worth, but no precipitation was reported in the morning.

So under sunny skies, Romo was instead on the football field throwing passes to his teammates.

"It was fun being at football today, it's an exciting time of year to get back on the field with everybody, and it was good weather today and we got a good sweat in," Romo said. "I think the guys worked pretty hard out there."

After moving past the first stage of Nelson qualifying last week, Romo said he would pick football over golf if the two conflicted.

"It's not like I missed out on something today [Monday]. I got to go out there and compete and get better," Romo said. "Its football, and it's the funnest thing I do. In some ways, you want to do something, but there is really no decision there. It's just what I love to do. Why would you not choose that?"

Qualifying for golf tournaments is not out of Romo's plans. He is scheduled to participate in the U.S. Open's local qualifier Thursday at The Honors Club of Dallas, his home course. He hasn't advanced past the local stage of U.S. Open qualifying in two previous attempts.

There was discussion that Romo could get a later tee time to qualify for the Nelson or receive an exemption. But the low number of participants in qualifying prevented later tee times, and tournament officials normally reserve exemptions for promising young golfers or pros with special circumstances.

"With 90 or less players, the PGA Tour requires that we tee off in the morning so we have plenty of time to finish the qualifying tournament in case of weather delays and playoffs," Mark Harrison, director of operations for the Northern Texas PGA, which puts on the event, said in a statement Saturday.

"In a way, Tony was unlucky that a few more players did not enter. If we had a handful more players, we could have accommodated his late tee time request and he would have definitely been able to play after his football commitments."

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he was not surprised Romo chose football over golf.

"It's real obvious as far as where his responsibility is on him personally," Jones said.

Romo got his first chance to throw passes to receiver Dez Bryant, the team's first-round draft pick last month in the first of four consecutive weeks of OTAs. The workouts will culminate with a mandatory minicamp in mid-June. The first training camp practice is July 24 in San Antonio.

"There was one time when he was explaining a play to me, I really didn't care about the play. I was excited because he was talking to me," Bryant said. "It is a dream come true. I always wanted to be a Dallas Cowboy. ... I'm trying to get past the excitement and just get ready and focus on football."

Returning receivers Patrick Crayton and Sam Hurd both were given permission to seek a trade after Bryant was drafted. Hurd took part in Monday's workout that was open to reporters. Crayton didn't.

Hurd, who had thumb surgery in February, said he is "working as hard as he can" and can't predict what will happen.

"Tony threw the ball well, didn't putt well," coach Wade Phillips said jokingly.

The coach said he wouldn't have minded if Romo had taken a crack at making the field for the Nelson.

"All of us know Tony was here because football is first, and has been," Phillips said. "Tony has not missed anything since I've been here. ... It's not a surprise to me that he's not playing in a tournament that he had an opportunity. Really most guys with his stature and the way he's played, it probably wouldn't have hurt him certainly to miss a day here and have that opportunity. But it was up to him to do what he wanted to do, and he chose to be in practice."

Romo last week shot an even-par 72 at a pre-qualifier to get a spot in Monday's Nelson qualifying. He has also tried in the past to qualify for the U.S. Open.

"It seems like he's playing golf better now than he ever has," said tight end Jason Witten, Romo's best friend since they were rookies in 2003. "It's kind of humorous to us, you see a guy of his caliber and play the way he has over the last couple of years and still be questioned where his motives are. That's absurd because he's such a great quarterback and tremendously focused about where he wants to be."

Romo last season set team records for completions, attempts and yardage (347-of-550 passing for 4,483 yards) and had 26 touchdowns while leading the Cowboys to the NFC East title and their first playoff victory since 1996. His yards were the most in the NFC.

There were no plans to play any golf after practice Monday. And no regrets about missing the 18-hole Nelson qualifier.

"He made the right decision," receiver Roy Williams said. "Golf is just a recreational sport that you can go do when you're 78 years old. ... If I was him too, I'd stick with this right now."

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag. Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Calvin Watkins joined ESPNDallas.com in September 2009. He's covered the Cowboys since 2006 and also has covered colleges, boxing and high school sports.