Before an attendance-record setting crowd, Tony Romo made three consecutive birdies on the 18th hole at Edgewood Tahoe Golf Course on Sunday, the last two in a playoff with Mark Mulder and Joe Pavelski, to win his third American Century Championship title.
The Sierra Nevada weather was perfect all week, showcasing a national television audience Lake Tahoe’s summer splendor. The overall attendance was 67,000, breaking 2019’s record of 60,530.
“TV doesn’t do justice to how hard that tee shot on 18 is and I’ve struggled with that hole over the years here,” Romo said. “I’ve been working on stuff since I last won here, and it’s really just been showing up now, that allows me to step up and hit driver on 18 and some other holes around here and capitalize on that advantage.”
Tony Romo hit three approach shots into 18 on Sunday, all from the middle of the fairway, and none was longer than 150 yards.
Romo not only conquered some of the demons from tournaments past, he did so in efficient style carding zero double bogeys for the week. If there is a key to winning in the Modified Stableford scoring system — in which points are awarded for eagles (6), birdies (3), and pars (1) and points deducted for double bogeys (-2) — that is it.
Pavelski had a golden opportunity on the first playoff hole to win his first ACC with an eagle attempt from 17 feet after both Romo and Mulder had missed their eagle putts from long range. The moment appeared to get him a bit however and his less than smooth stroke slid his ball well past the hole.
When told in the press room afterward that he would have been the only active NHL player to win besides Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux, he slumped and said, “I did not know that. It was right there.” Standing next to him at the podium together and grinning Mark Mulder cut him off and blurted out, “Way to mess it up.” Laughs all around.
While these guys all have the internal drive to win and compete hard, they don’t take themselves too seriously.
Mulder was looking for his fourth ACC title and his first since 2017. The former Oakland Athletics ace looked well on his way, riding birdies at the third, fourth, and fifth holes and comfortably strolling the sun-splashed emerald fairways of Edgewood with a double-digit lead as he made the turn to the second nine.
Through 12 holes and despite a three-putt bogey at the 10th, Mulder still had a reasonably comfortable cushion on both Romo, who was one group ahead with 55 points and Pavelski, who was two groups ahead with 53 points. With a pair of reachable par-fives, and a par three 17th hole that was doable with only a slight breeze off a shimmering Lake Tahoe, it looked almost in the bag. Almost.
“Gosh, I didn’t try to, but, man, did I get conservative. Like I said, I’ve been here before. I knew what to do. And for some reason, I just didn’t hit the shots I needed to make. It’s as simple as that,” said Mulder afterwards.
A poor drive to the right on the 13th hole began the unraveling. Mulder compounded the error after a solid recovery by missing a short putt and carding a double bogey. The real dagger came at the very hole that had vaulted him into the lead 24 hours earlier. On Sunday, Mulder doubled his score from Round 2 with a bogey six at the par five, leaving him at 60 points with two holes to play.
Romo and Pavelski, both playing solid golf, had closed the gap ahead of Mulder. When each birdied the 18th in regulation to surge ahead with 62 points each, Mulder needed to make a birdie and three points at the last hole to win. He successfully knocked it on in two shots, but faced a downhill 50-footer for eagle. When he failed to two putt for birdie, his single point for par forced the three-way playoff.
Notes: As an amateur, Tony Romo donated his entire winner’s check. Romo will play in the 36-hole USGA Amateur qualifier in Texas Monday morning at 8am CDT. … Incline Village resident Annika Sorenstam made three birdies on the back nine, including her final hole to finish T-4 with Minnesota Vikings WR Adam Thielen. … 2020 Champion Mardy Fish began his round with a double bogey, and added three more bogeys before making his first birdie at 18. He finished solo sixth. … Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers had a big day with 23 points that included an eagle at the par five 18th to finish in ninth place. … Steph Curry bested his father Del 41-39 points, but still lost the Curry family bet by a wide margin. … Charles Barkely once again failed to finish within the top 70, carding six more double bogeys in the final round. Clearly fatigue is a contributing factor as 14 of his 19 double bogeys for the week came on the second nine of his rounds.