Commentary

Tiger, Romo do battle at Congressional

Originally Published: July 1, 2009
By Jason Sobel | ESPN.com

BETHESDA, Md. -- Never invite Batman over to the Joker's lair for a good time. Don't toss a pet mouse into the python cage. Forget about leaving an unattended bucket of buffalo wings near John Daly's RV -- slimmed-down figure and all.

Yet Tiger Woods pulled off golf's equivalent of all three at the Earl Woods Memorial Pro-Am before the AT&T National.

Despite continually maintaining that he owns no aspirations to be an elected official -- or quite possibly because of that very reason -- Woods might own the highest approval rating of any public figure currently in the Washington, D.C., area, thanks to delivering PGA Tour golf back to this part of the country two years ago.

[+] EnlargeJessica Simpson, Tiger Woods and Tony Romo
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty ImagesTiger Woods, flanked by Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson, kicked off the third AT&T National tournament at Congressional Country Club outside our nation's capital.

On Wednesday, though, Woods placed that reputation on the line by teeing it up with a veritable enemy in the nation's capital. His celebrity playing partner at the event was neither an adversarial world leader nor a partisan legislator -- well, not this playing partner, at least. Instead, it was Tony Romo, quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, a team that just happens to be a main rival of the geographical favorite Washington Redskins.

"I didn't realize it was going to be this big a deal," tournament host Woods said one day earlier." I've always wanted to play with him, and he accepted our invitation to come out and play, which is awfully nice of him, 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, a team sport, away from home."

Turns out, he was only half-right.

It was a big deal to see the two athletes side by side at venerable Congressional CC, but the booing was kept to a minimum. Oh sure, there were a few who stayed loyal to the local team, including one 10-year-old who audibly admonished Jessica Simpson -- not present at the time -- for "settling" on beau Romo, who is "getting chubby."

Another spectator wore a T-shirt that read, "Romo wuz NOT built in a day," which might have been more factual than antagonistic. When he flubbed a fairway wood approach shot on No. 9, there were a few lighthearted catcalls, but nothing of real disdain. And during the tournament's opening ceremony, Romo received a smattering of boos, whereas Redskins stars Jason Campbell and Antwaan Randle El were met with boisterous cheers.

That doesn't mean everyone was in favor of Woods' selection.

"I don't know what he thinks he's doing, to be honest with you," said PGA Tour veteran and lifelong Redskins fan Steve Marino. "I'm surprised more people weren't out here giving him a hard time, so he could remember that next time he comes into RFK. I guess it kind of makes sense. Tony Romo is more of a media darling than Jason Campbell. But this is Redskins territory; you would think that Tiger would have been playing with Campbell. I don't like it."

For the most part, though, the opposing quarterback felt no ill effects of playing without pads in the middle of Redskins Nation.

That's right. In this story, Batman had some laughs, the mouse got away and those buffalo wings remained untouched.

"You know what to expect a little bit," said Romo, who owns a 1-2 career record as a starter in the D.C. area. "But honestly, people were very respectful and it just makes for a very enjoyable day."

Enjoyable? Yes. Profitable? Not so much.

The Woods-Romo team, which also included congressional minority leader John Boehner and businessman Tom Dundon, finished out of the money at a combined 9-under 61 for the round. Meanwhile, scratch handicapper Romo played the final 17 holes from the championship tees, outdriving the world's No. 1-ranked golfer on occasion but failing to get into his pocket at all.

"You could see that Tiger wasn't going to let him beat him. I think Tiger was just practicing, but if Tony was going to do something good, Tiger was going to do something better," Dundon said. "He wanted to measure himself up against Tiger, and I think he held his own. It was fun to watch."

Woods put it more succinctly. "I had the pleasure of playing with Tony Romo today," he later said. "He added to my spending fund, which was nice."

So how did Woods and Romo get paired up? Turns out both have a relationship with AT&T and they share a mutual friendship with Notah Begay -- who played with Tiger at Stanford and plays out of the same Dallas-based club as Romo. A third connection is via Hank Haney, who instructs Woods and Romo on their swings.

Although the quarterback -- who has failed to advance past the local qualifying stage for the U.S. Open each of the past two years -- wouldn't confirm the amount of his losing wager with the pro, he could at least take heart in the fact that on this day, on opposing turf, Dallas got the better of Washington. Playing one group behind the featured foursome were Campbell and Randle El, teamed with former Masters champion Mike Weir. Their score of 5-under 65 left them even lower on the leaderboard, but it didn't equal any net gains for Romo.

"Shoot, I couldn't bet nobody," Campbell admitted. "I was just trying to keep my ball in play."

Consider such information about the NFC East rival quarterbacks either terrifically relevant or infinitely insignificant. In either case, remember that Romo endured enemy territory and survived unscathed. It might not be so easy the next time he returns to this neck of the woods.

Jason Sobel is a golf writer for ESPN.com. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com.

Jason Sobel | email

Golf Editor, ESPN.com
Jason Sobel, who joined ESPN in 1997, earned four Sports Emmy awards as a member of ESPN's Studio Production department. He became ESPN.com's golf editor in July 2004.