Aussie duo paired with NFL great in tournament return

Tony Romo teeing it up in a tournament in Dallas would ordinarily draw a crowd but Aussie pair Greg Chalmers and John Senden won’t have to fear the fan factor after being drawn to play with the Cowboys legend in the Maridoe Samaritan Fund Invitational 2.0 starting Tuesday.

First staged in April to raise funds for caddies at Maridoe Golf Club, the second Invitational has again attracted a stellar field of talent from the professional ranks along with some of the best college players in America but COVID-19 protocols forbids any spectators from attending.

Scottie Scheffler returns to defend the title he won on April 20 with other PGA TOUR stars such as Jordan Spieth, Viktor Hovland, 2018 Australian Open champion Abraham Ancer and Ryan Palmer also in the field. There is a strong influence of locally-based Aussies also with Chalmers, Senden and Steven Bowditch playing a practice round together on Monday morning.

Star quarterback for the Cowboys for more than a decade, Romo finished 39th in the inaugural Invitational last month with rounds of 78-80-78 and Chalmers is excited by the chance to play alongside him in his first start since the Honda Classic in late February.

“I met him when we played the Dominican Republic,” Chalmers said of meeting Romo at the 2018 Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship.

“Obviously pretty keen on his golf so we’ll get out there and get after it tomorrow.

“Hopefully it won’t blow too much because the course is really tricky. If we can get some nice conditions we might see some scores.

“I’m looking forward to it, with Johnny and Tony. I need the practise so I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Listed at 100/1 to win the 72-man 54-hole event, Chalmers views it as not only an opportunity to see how his game has fared during a two-month lay-off but how the on-course protocols will look ahead of the PGA TOUR’s planned return at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club starting June 11.

Able to reset his medical exemption that opens the door to play seven further events for the remainder of the season, Chalmers doesn’t expect to play Colonial, instead targeting the Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands as his first start back.

“I don’t know how I’m going to play these next few days. I feel like my practice is going OK but you never know,” said Chalmers, who has been able to play and practise at the ultra-exclusive Vaquero Club where he is a member throughout the coronavirus lockdown.

“Nothing matters until the lights go on. It’s not until it really matters to you that you find out where your game’s at.

“Timing-wise this is great. We’ve got a few weeks until our events, need some load in the legs walking 18 holes three days in a row and it’s a very tough course if they set it up tricky.

“Test your game out, see where you’re at… There’s a lot about it that you need to go through before you start playing the real stuff.”

As for the prospect of resuming travel after spending his time in lockdown with his family, cleaning out the garage and undertaking a typing course (“I lasted one day”), Chalmers has no doubt that even the best-laid plans will require some adjustment on the run.

“I only just got going again after having 20 months off,” said Chalmers, a two-time winner of both the Australian Open and Australian PGA Championship where he was top-15 in both events last summer.

“There are so many unknowns about travel and how it’s all going to play out, I really don’t know how to feel.

“What are the protocols going to be? There are so many unanswered questions and we really won’t know the answers to until we get rolling.

“There’s going to be testing done at a specific venue prior to the event. You’ve got to do a home testing first and then questionnaires every day that you’re going to the course, temperature-taking when you get there.

“There are some challenges there and we all have to get on that page a little bit just so that we can all stay safe and keep doing our job.

“I’ve got half an idea in my head of how they want us to go about it. They’ve been pretty clear in communicating to us how they’re going to move forward but we won’t know until we get rolling because I think there’s going to be a lot of learning on the fly, from us as players and the tour.”

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