Commentary

Tony Romo gets front-row seat

Updated: February 13, 2012, 11:58 AM ET
By Sarah Turcotte | ESPN The Magazine

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods might have had a million dollars on the line Sunday at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but they were hardly the most nervous guys on the course.

Their amateur partners were concerned with spectator safety, the pros' through-lines, and generally just staying out of the way.

"I had no strategy today," said Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, a scratch golfer who was paired with Woods.

On the par-5 sixth hole, Romo actually gave Mickelson a read on Lefty's eagle putt, but didn't even realize.

"I'm a fan like everyone else," Romo said. "Just to be out there with them was something special."

While Romo is used to the spotlight, Mickelson's partner, Barclays executive Skip McGee is decidedly not. McGee was shocked to even make the cut in his first start here, and ended up finishing in a tie for sixth in the pro-am portion of the competition.

[+] EnlargeTony Romo
Jeff Gross/Getty ImagesTony Romo, a scratch golfer who has reached the U.S. Open sectional qualifying, can match many pros in terms of length off the tee.

"I mean, there's a reason I'm a 15 handicap," McGee said of his nerves going into this week.

McGee and his rookie caddie, Mike Angus, head of Mickelson's golf course design team, took their cues from Mickelson's caddie, Bones Mackay.

"He deserves to be paid times three for this week," Angus said.

Added McGee: "I just had my eye on Bones all day long. Should I mark? Should I pick up? I let Bones lead the way."

Mackay was nonchalant about his role in keeping the amateurs calm.

"It's my job," he said shrugging. "We had two guys out there with a chance to win the tournament, but we also wanted this to be a positive experience for Mike and Skip. They were tremendous."

Learning of the day's pairing was both exciting and daunting for the novices in the group.

"I thought it was too good to be true," Romo said. "I had the chance to play with Tiger all week, which was an unbelievable experience, and then you just add Phil Mickelson on top. I couldn't believe it."

Angus got a text last night from Bones that read, "Are you ready for Tiger?" He had to read it a few times for it to process.

"I thought, 'Nope, I'm not ready at all," Angus said.

McGee and Angus spent extra time on the range this morning to calm their nerves.

"I wanted to keep a good tempo to make sure I didn't have too many shanks," McGee said. "My biggest fear was holding the group up. I was very aware that the crowd would be there to see everyone in the group … except me. I didn't want to take too much time."

McGee lost only one ball all day and Romo outplayed Woods for much of the afternoon, matching his pro with two birdies on the day to finish the Pro-Am tied for 17th.

The pairing afforded the amateurs the best seats on the course for a head-to-head match between the game's most decorated players.

"I couldn't believe some of the shots they were hitting," said Romo, who matches the pros in length off the tee.

"Tiger is close," Romo added. "He's building something; it's only a matter of time."

Both amateurs were more impressed with Mickelson's pars than his eagle or his birdies.

"His birdies were tap-ins," McGee said. "His pars were long, snaky putts. When he made that 30-footer for par on 12, on top of Tiger's birdie, I thought I was seeing something very special."

Romo, a loyal partner, was diplomatic when critiquing Mickelson's game.

"Those guys were both great; they both had some brilliant moments."

The pros, for their part, were attentive partners, lining up putts for their amateurs, giving them yardages and suggesting targets from the first tee to the 18th green.

"I was kind of wanting Tiger to stop spending so much time helping me and focus on winning," Romo said. "But that's the kind of guy he is. I wish more people got to see how generous he is. I couldn't have had a better week."

McGee had played only a handful of holes with Mickelson before this week, but the two got friendly as the tournament went on. They went for post-round burgers on Friday, and McGee's wife walked the course alongside Amy Mickelson.

"He really did help me out there," McGee said. "I was in most holes. I wish I could have made more putts to contribute, but every time I made birdie, he did too."

Of all the tips Mickelson generously gave McGee this week, one stuck with him. On the very first hole of the tournament, Mickelson turned to McGee and said, "You can hit anyone you want this week, just don't hit me."

Sarah Turcotte is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and a former editor for ESPN The Magazine. You can find her online archives here.

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