Romo pars playoff holes, moves on

CARROLLTON, Texas -- Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo finished a long Thursday one step closer to playing in the U.S. Open, parring three playoff holes to advance out of the local qualifier at The Honors Golf Club of Dallas.

Romo finished 18 holes at 2-under 69 and in a tie for fourth place. But several groups remained on the course after he was done, and he was worried he might have to participate in a playoff either late Thursday or Friday morning.

The quarterback left the club for a prior engagement but asked tournament officials to call him if he was needed for a playoff. He was, and he rushed back to finish in the dark.

Romo, along with six others and two alternates, advanced to the USGA Sectional on June 7 at the Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas. Asked what he would be doing on June 7, Romo joked, "I'll be in Dallas."

The sectional won't conflict with Romo's football duties. The Cowboys' last round of organized team activities is June 8-10. The U.S. Open is June 14-20 at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.

Romo has always said football comes first and stuck to that premise Monday, bypassing a qualifier for this week's HP Byron Nelson Championship to participate in the first OTAs of the offseason.

On Thursday, however, Romo finished his day strong with birdies on three of his last four holes. He shot even par on the front nine but bogeyed Nos. 4 and 5, before bouncing back on No. 6 with a 16-foot birdie putt. After scoring par on No. 7, he had another birdie with a 38-foot putt that lay on the edge of the cup for about three seconds before dropping in.

When it fell, Romo yelled "Yeah!," gave fist bumps to his caddie and smiled as he walked to his final hole of the day. He scored another birdie on No. 9, which would place him in the playoff and then in contention for the U.S. Open.

"It was good," Romo said. "The putt on [No. 8] was a big one obviously. I came from the top side of the hole. Tough putt, but that's nice when you can have it when it counts. It's nice to finish when you need to. It's exciting and its self-gratifying."

Romo shot par his first nine holes, which he wrapped up with a bogey on No. 18.

"That's part of the thing, sometimes you have to overcome some of the bad breaks," Romo said. "And mentally I stayed with it and kept thinking about the next shot and not worrying where I needed to be until the last couple of holes, and I think that helped."

Romo is not the only professional athlete to attempt to qualify for the U.S. Open this year. On May 11, former big league pitcher John Smoltz failed to advance past a sectional round. Jacksonville Jaguars kicker Josh Scobee and his Minnesota Vikings counterpart Ryan Longwell also failed to advance to the next round.

Calvin Watkins covers the Cowboys for ESPNDallas.com. You can follow him on Twitter or leave a question for his weekly mailbag.