It's been a calendar year since we walked with Tony Romo at The Veritex Bank Championship at The Texas Rangers Golf Club in Arlington, an easy date to track because April 21st is Tony's birthday and don't we all want to play golf on our bday weekend? Well, not only does Tony like to play golf, he loves to compete at it, and this year's ClubCorp Classic was the perfect setting to display his, and so many others', spirited & competitive nature.
Las Colinas Country Club had several upgrades recently completed that included restructuring shorelines & redesigning a few of its featured holes. ClubCorp, as most of the golfing world is aware, is a massive force within the golf industry in global products, management, and the creation of competitions. They created such a fascinating strategy for formatting this event, that even the most seasoned of golf fan was intrigued by the complexity of this contest's many layers.
Wednesday and Thursday the ProAm kicked off the festivities with dozens of celebrities dotting LCCC's landscape. We saw John Daly on the course, Anthony Edwards on the driving range, and several former MLB pitchers talkin golf on the practice green. Too many celebs to list but Tony Romo got the biggest ovation and following. The celebrities played a modified Stableford format where points were given for bogeys, pars, birdies and bonus points for better. They also subtracted points for double bogeys or worse. This was brilliant on many levels because it rewarded aggressive golf but it hindered golfers like Annika that weren't able to capitalize on strength and length. That said, Annika gave these guys a run for their money and finished just behind the two front runners; Tony Romo and Mardy Fish.
Mardy was a professional tennis player for years and it's obvious his childhood at the country club wasn't LL spent on the court. His golf swing is incredibly rhythmic, his game is powerful but strategic. Tony is a Smasher, he crushes the ball and tries to overpower golf courses, a la, John Rahm. The weekend was setting up to be a contest of styles, competitive wills and sportsmanship, and it would not disappoint.
Friday, Saturday and Sunday we saw the best celebrity golfers paired alongside with PGA Champions Tour pros during their 54-hole PGA Tour competition. Two celebrities and two PGA pros was a great idea that incorporated the ProAm feel with the competitive side of pro golf. The conversations amongst the groups was second to none. By the weekend, the stories of each competitor's past lives had been told and most, if not all of the talk was about golf. The Senior pros got to mix it up with some very entertaining celebs and the celebs got to pick pro golfers brains. And the fans got to enjoy all of this all weekend.
Sunday at The ClubCorp Classic was a truly special day for Tas-Tee as it marked the one-year anniversary of our loop around the Texas Rangers Golf Course, we got to walk every step of the Final Round with Tony and Mardy's group. It was a bit of a shuffle with the tee times but we made sure we were on hand for that first tee shot. Then Tony motioned for us to come with him.... so we did!
Walking with Tony and Mardy during the final round of the competition was an extraordinary feeling. We heard strategies, bro talk and at several points in the heat of battle, Mardy made Tony smile by shooting him a look or a stink eye. Mardy lightened the day on several occasions but when the situation dictated that he hit a shot, he did it. He didn't putt well enough to run away with it and after we saw Tony birdie the par 3 17th to take the lead going into the final hole, it looked like Mardy's putting woes would cost him the tournament. But Tony drove the ball slightly right into the rough on 18 and Mardy hit an absolute BOMB all the way down to the water's edge, just 190yds from the hole. The green itself sits slightly angled and the runoff to the water in front is somewhat severe. Severe enough...
Mere steps from Tony as he and his caddie "Brownie" discussed the swirling wind and the need to clear the water. Hybrid in hand at first, Tony was fairly confident he could make the yardage with that club but Brownie said there's no punishment for going long. Because of the grandstands beyond the green, Tony could muscle it over the green, taking the water "out of play" and his score couldn't suffer enough to lose the tournament. Good idea. Tony agreed, felt for the right grip, measured his backswing and smacked the ever-living dookie out of his 3wood. The ball whizzed off the clubface, racing into the sky, right at the green. It hit the bank right in front of the green, bounced forward towards the flag but didn't have enough energy to clear the apex of the hill. To the crowd's and Tony's dismay, the ball turned around and trickled back into the water. Mardy hit a 4 or 5 iron just passed the green and left himself a chip to put pressure back onto Romo.
Both Mardy and Tony got up and down from where they were but Mardy's birdie put him into a tie with Tony so there was to be a playoff. The crowd murmured with anticipation, most had no idea how to score this event so there was an excited confusion about what was to play out. Someone shouted from the VIP tent "scorecard playoff". What? surely this wasn't the way the officials would end such a momentous event. And again, ClubCorp did not disappoint.
Once the rules of this competition were made clear to the crowd, everyone at the event swarmed to the 18th green to watch Mardy and Tony's playoff. As if the record of time skipped, almost the exact scenario played out, Tony again missed right off the tee and hit what seemed like enough to clear the water, but he did not. This time it cost him the tournament and like always, he was still delightful. A forced grin on his face as he and I walk with a reporter back up to the clubhouse. For what it's worth, this is ClubCorp's footage. Can't imagine they're happy w me using it on this massive blog but I refuse to shoot video or take pictures while volunteering. I'm just playing by the rules.
See y'all at the Byron... lol