PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Too bad Tony Romo won’t be mic’d up in the TV window Saturday at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Once a quarterback, always a quarterback.
That’s what Will Zalatoris loves about Romo as his amateur partner in this week’s pro-am competition.
Zalatoris isn’t getting any Larry the Cable Guy or Bill Murray shtick this week. He’s getting what made Romo so good in an NFL huddle.
Romo is taking all the internal grit and spark that made him a star quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys and bringing it inside the ropes as a golfer.
Romo didn’t show up this week to help put on a TV show. He came to win the pro-am competition.
That’s what Zalatoris is seeing and hearing.
There’s something infectious about Romo’s attitude.
“I’m learning a lot from him,” Zalatoris said.
Zalatoris, 21, a former Wake Forest standout and U.S. Junior Amateur champ from Plano, Texas, is playing this week on a sponsor exemption. He’s hoping to earn his way on to the PGA Tour the same way fellow Texan Jordan Spieth did. And this weekend could do wonders for that quest.
With a 5-under-par 67 at Spyglass Hill on Thursday, Zalatoris moved onto the leaderboard, just two shots off the lead. With a 69 Friday at Monterey Peninsula, he’s in good position to make a weekend run at Pebble Beach Golf Links. He’s tied for 13th, five shots back.
Zalatoris and Romo are tied for 11th in the pro-am competition. The low 25 teams at the end of Saturday’s play make the cut to Sunday.
How competitive is Romo?
“Oh my God,” Zalatoris said. “We are standing on the ninth green today, and he’s all pissed off because he made a bogey at eight. He says, 'We are shooting 61 tomorrow. That’s enough of this.'”
Zalatoris said Romo was even more upset about hitting a ball out of bounds at the sixth.
After the round, with Zalatoris in scoring, Romo stood in front of the shuttle rehearsing a fix in his downswing.
“I’m like, 'You didn’t have a bad day today,'” Zalatoris said. “It wasn’t terrible. Make five birdies on your ball on a PGA Tour-caliber golf course, that’s good work.
“He’s still angry he has to play the up tees. He needs to get over it.”
This pro-am team’s roots lies in their Dallas connection. They met going to the same chiropractor. That led to Romo inviting Zalatoris to play at Bent Tree with him.
“Will was a local legend there growing up,” Romo told GolfChannel.com as he rehearsed that takeaway waiting for a shuttle. “He’s just a great kid, a genuine kid, with so much talent. You see it instantly on the golf course.”
Romo can’t wait to see what Zalatoris will do playing full time on the PGA Tour.
“I think you’re going to hear about him quite a bit in the future,” Romo said. “I think he’s one of the most special, uniquely talented young guys out there, and he’s going to show up.”
Zalatoris has only known Romo for two months, but there’s already a bond. Zalatoris is learning as much from Romo as Romo is from him. Romo will try to step up his game at the PGA Tour’s Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship in the Dominican Republic next month. He is playing on a sponsor exemption.
“I can sit there for a day, just asking him questions,” Zalatoris said. “His routines? Pressure moments? How did he rally his troops?”
Zalatoris got a glimpse of that last part on the course Friday at Monterey. He missed a putt when a “really bad piece of poa annua” messed up the roll at the second hole. He made bogey. He was down about it.
“He was just getting in my ear on the fourth green, to get my head on straight,” Zalatoris said. “I was really grinding to get things back in gear. It was fun. He was really motivating today.
“There’s something he learned in every single thing he did in his career. He was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. Quite frankly, he was probably one of the best of all time, but he’s not going to get credit for it. There are a lot of things I can learn from him."