BETHESDA, Md. (AP) — It’s not often that a player is bold enough to challenge Tiger Woods on the golf course. Rarer still is when it happens during a pro-am round from one of his amateur partners.
“That still puts me 1 up,” Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo said to him Wednesday morning.
“Does it, now?” Woods replied, not sounding the least bit concerned.
The world’s No. 1 player then smoked a fairway metal down the 17th at Congressional Country Club. Romo, a scratch player who asked to play from the championship tees, followed with a 3-wood that traveled about a yard farther.
On the par-3 second, Romo appeared to have the edge when Woods bladed a bunker shot over the green and into the gallery. He didn’t finish out the hole, and when Romo three-putted from the fringe, the quarterback said, “You wouldn’t have made 4 from there.”
They didn’t mention the stakes or how many shots Woods gave Romo – if any – although it had a familiar conclusion.
“He contributed to my spending fund, which is nice,” Woods said later on his Web site.
The bold move by Woods was playing with the Cowboys’ quarterback in Washington Redskins country, and while it attracted a large gallery for the 6:30 a.m. tee time, the cheers and jeers were relatively tame.
“How about an autograph?” one fan said to Romo. “I’ve got a Tony Romo jersey on and I’ve already been in three fights.”
Romo kept walking.
“Jason Campbell signed it,” the fan called to him.
Campbell, the Redskins quarterback, played in another pro-am group, while Woods and Romo were joined by House Minority Leader John Boehner, who spent most of his day picking up his ball before he reached the green.
There was plenty of star power at Congressional, even during the opening ceremony when Jessica Simpson sang the national anthem.
When the AT&T National gets under way Thursday, the biggest star will be the tournament host.
Woods missed his own tournament last year, which was played a week after he had season-ending knee surgery. He had to watch from his couch as Anthony Kim closed with a bogey-free 65 for a two-shot victory.
“I thought he was here last year,” Kim said. “His name was all over the place.”
It is everywhere but the trophy.
One obscure piece of trivia that could come out of this tournament is a chance for Woods to match Jack Nicklaus by winning his tournament on the second try. Nicklaus won the Memorial in 1977, the second year of the tournament.
The only Nicklaus record that matters to Woods is 18 professional majors, and that’s on his mind, too.
Woods is playing for the first time since he failed to defend his title in the U.S. Open at Bethpage, largely due to his putting. Next up is the British Open in two weeks at Turnberry, a links course he has only seen on television.
For now, he is intent on being a “greedy host.”
He wants the 120-man field at Congressional to have a great week, as long as he goes home with the trophy.
“I always put in as much as I possibly can to win an event,” he said. “It is fun winning your own event.”
He has won the Chevron World Challenge, his charity tournament in California, four times. Woods also is going for a hat trick of sorts by trying to win three tournaments in one year hosted by PGA Tour players, having previously won the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill and the Memorial, which Nicklaus runs.
Strangely enough, both those tournaments were his final events before a major.
And the majors haven’t worked out for him so far this year.
In both majors he tied for sixth, four shots out of the lead. He hit the ball poorly at the Masters, but knew Augusta National well enough and made enough putts to at least give himself an outside chance Sunday. He hit the ball beautifully at Bethpage Black, only to fail miserably on the greens.
“Just like all major championships, you have to have all the pieces going,” Woods said. “You have to hit the ball well, chip well, putt well, think well. And that’s the whole idea of majors. Every single facet of your game is tested. And it just didn’t work out.
“Looking forward to the next two.”
Preparations for Turnberry really won’t start until he arrives, although he can start by making sure his game is sound on a Congressional course that will host the U.S. Open in 2011.
The field features U.S. Open champion Lucas Glover, Jim Furyk and Vijay Singh from the top 10 in the world ranking.
“It’s a place that I would always put on my schedule because I think the world of the golf course,” Furyk said. “I’ve played very well here the last couple years, so I’ve got some good memories.”