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July 10, 2019
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Tony Romo and Jon Miller. We have our defending champion, Tony Romo, here for the ninth time. He's finished in the top 10 six of those times. He is carving out a great reputation as one of the finest color commentators in the NFL. Great to have you here.
I know the sportsbooks had you listed 5-to-2. You're now listed ar 2-to-1. I guess there's been some action across the street.
TONY ROMO: Hasn't been me yet. I usually get in before anybody else.
THE MODERATOR: I think you and Mark Mulder are co-favorites. Thanks for being here.
We have Jon Miller, president of programming for NBC Sports Group. You've been here from day one; you've seen everything that's gone on over the years from the first year when we had 2500 people here to last year we had almost 58,000.
So if you're taking a look back, what are some of your most favorite memories with this event?
JON MILLER: There are a lot of good memories. Obviously watching it grow and watching it become more than just one player. We used to think we were dependent upon, the first couple of years, whether it was a Michael Jordan or John Elway or someone like that.
But now we have so much depth in the field and we have so many great stars from sports and entertainment that the event itself is now the big star, and the area of Lake Tahoe and Edgewood has become a celebrity in its own right.
The fact that -- we looked at some video recently of our first year in 1990. And the reason this event even happened is because we lost Major League Baseball. Major League Baseball had been on NBC for 40-some-odd years, and we lost it. And we had to find programming to fill in the summer. So we did this as a one-off.
A man named Jim Karvellas was instrumental in helping us put this together. Many of you got to know Jim before he passed away. But we did this. It was to basically be one and done.
And then we were fortunate enough to get a second year out of it. And then, luckily for us, in 1998, we found a great title sponsor in American Century who really understood the value of what we were doing and helped us grow it and helped us invest in it to the point now where we have 91 players in the field. But over the course of the last 30 years, we've had 486 players play in this event.
And I saw a stat recently that we've got 61 MVPs and just an unbelievable number of accomplishments from these different athletes and stars.
So I don't think there's any one great moment. I think obviously seeing Tony win last year and having somebody of his stature win this event, he's probably the single biggest name celebrity/golfer that we've had since Mario Lemieux won it several years ago.
So it's good to see the quality of golf continue to improve and it's good to see the community and the country fall in behind it.
Q. Tony, when you were here last year we talked in the media room, three consecutive second-place finishes and you broke through last year. What's the last year been like for you as defending champion of the American Century Championship?
TONY ROMO: It's been a whirlwind just going around the whole United States, just going around as the champion here. That's a joke. (Laughter).
It's actually been great. I mean, the shocking thing is more people will ask me about the Tahoe tournament throughout the year than any other tournament that I've played in. And that speaks volumes to what Jon and everyone here at American Century has built.
So I think it goes without saying that it's a prestigious tournament. And there's so many people who want to play in it, and you feel honored and humbled that you get an invite. And to be able to compete and have a chance on Sunday is why you always want to play sports.
Q. You mentioned you've played on the regular tour and a couple of events this year. John Smoltz has played in three different senior events. Mulder played in the Napa Open down in Silverado in October on the regular tour. And Steph has played in the Web.com Tour. So the level of competition here continues to rise. Are you seeing that on the golf course too?
TONY ROMO: Oh, yeah, I think you named a bunch of the -- obviously outstanding guys. You can throw Mardy Fish. You can throw a few more guys in there that have some real ability. And you've got to play well to win out here. There's too many good players.
It's not three guys, two guys anymore, I think. Obviously Mulder has been the standout here for a long time. So he's going to be right there. But I think you find that you can improve in this game pretty quickly if you have the right teaching or if you're able to make some small changes in your swing and all of a sudden things get natural and you're athletic and you're now able to use that athleticism.
I see it all the time with a lot of the guys, all of a sudden a guy, within a year or two, you're like, he's just better. And I think you'll find someone will pop up this year that you weren't expecting.
Q. Jon, you were talking about the popularity of the tournament. It's one of NBC's goals each year to bring in 10, 20 percent new players.
JON MILLER: We have 20 new players coming in this year. We have 91 players in the field. We are at capacity. If you asked Mike Milthorpe, our tournament director, has been the tournament director for the past 29 years, he'll tell you we're over capacity. But that's okay, he's a little bit grumpy about it. But he does a great job for us.
But we do, we have some great new players in the field this year. We have a bunch of new NFL coaches who have joined us. We have the 2015 Miss America is joining us; Dylan Dreyer from the Today Show is joining us. We've got Kyle Williams, an excellent player, who is joining us, who I think is going to surprise a lot of people when they see just how well he plays. He's a big man, too. He's quite a stick. So we do have a lot of new players coming this year.
Q. Tony, how does playing golf at the highest level, PGA TOUR, U.S. Open-style tournaments, how does that affect the dynamics of this tournament these days?
TONY ROMO: What do you mean by that?
Q. Do you have any sort of competitive advantage, maybe not over --
TONY ROMO: Yeah, I know what you're saying with the question. I think more than anything, just playing golf in golf tournaments is going to help anybody. It doesn't matter where you're playing. Being around the best players in the world are always going to help you as well.
It's going to smack you right in the face when you're out there and you see something you're like, hmm, I don't have that. So you've got to go back and work on it.
You're just constantly trying to get to a point where you feel like your weaknesses become strengths. And like I said, it's systematic. It's a deliberate practice that I try and make it where it's boring, if I get into the technical side, but it's how I like to go about fixing this one area and then we'll move on to the other stuff and just over time hopefully you can get to a point where you can play where -- play to a point where you'd be proud of and get to that point, I guess.
Q. And to follow that up, does playing in multiple events at that level give you even more of an advantage? Because I would think maybe just one is rather eye-opening, but getting some continuity in those high-level tournaments.
TONY ROMO: I don't know. This game will humble you very quickly. I don't care who you are. It has a way like all really professional sports at the highest level. But the one area that I find, if there is any advantage from it, it's just your ability to see what you need to practice.
It literally shows you instantly what you have to get better at. And so you're able to kind of narrow your focus, if you're really trying to make it important on what to attack, with your schedule. I think and that's probably been the biggest. Each time something hasn't been up to par in the events and the next time, the next event I've made a significant improvement.
And so I think it's the same from the Byron Nelson to this one. Hopefully you'll see a big improvement from there.
Q. Jon, forgive me for my lack of history knowledge here, 30 years ago what was your title with NBC Sports?
JON MILLER: Vice President of Program Planning. And I had been on the job literally for --
TONY ROMO: 41 years. (Laughter).
JON MILLER: That's how long I've been there. But I've been in this role for a little over a year. We lost Major League Baseball, which for many of you know it was kind of in the walls at NBC. It was every week for 26 straight weeks.
And so I was charged by the management of our division with finding replacement programming. We were looking at all kinds of different things and this came to us. And we looked at it and said we thought we could make something of it.
We tweaked it a little bit. And here we are 30 years later. To be honest with you, I did not expect to be here 30 years later when we started it.
Q. Can you go back 30 years ago and even imagine 30 years, 20 years, 15 years?
JON MILLER: I'll tell you the story. The first time we came out here, when I came out to look at this venue, I came out in December of 1989. And Caesar's Tahoe was bidding to be the host hotel. And it was a cold, miserable, dreary day. And we came down here we looked at the clubhouse. The clubhouse looked pretty cool.
I assumed the golf course would look good, but it was under snow. So it was pretty hard to imagine. But that first year we had 2500 people. Nobody showed up on the pro-am day other than the families of the players and maybe the caddies.
And to have almost 58,000 people come last year, it just shows you with a lot of hard work -- and I get a lot of credit, but the real credit goes to that gentleman right there in the green shirt, Gary Quinn, because it's his team that does, every day for 365 days, works on this event. And as soon as this event ends on Sunday he'll be looking at ways to improve it for next year.
And I'm very proud to say that he finds a way to do it every year.
Q. It's clear you're driven to get as good at this game as you can. And it's evident not only in the fact that there are improvements in this event over time, winning it last year, but also the fact that you're playing PGA TOUR events here and there. You're trying to qualify for the U.S. Open. What is driving you to become as good a golfer as you can, and what's your ultimate goal in this sport?
TONY ROMO: Probably just win the Grand Slam at the end of the season. (Laughter) Then I'll be able to walk away, finished product.
No, I think there is no end game. I've said this a few times before. You love the game. I love the, I guess, the highly technical -- you want to make it where it's just a free-flowing, natural move, right? But there's so much subtlety within the sport, so much nuance, that if you're not aware of the bounce and how it reacts into the green, it's just -- you're going to keep doing the same thing over and over again; it's just never going to change.
So you have to go figure out some of the things that some of the best players do. And then I think that's really enjoyable. It's the same thing I did with the throwing mechanics or trying the figure out the football player, what the defensive coordinator wanted to do to us to stop it. It's all about improvement and seeing how good you can be and the competitive side in you wants to obviously be proud of what you throw out there.
Q. Tony, Mardy Fish and Mark Mulder, your first rounds last year were not as good as your second and third. Two-part question. First, what are you planning, preparing to do the first day to make your score better? And for those of us in the press room, selfishly, maybe, picking you in the press pool, what do you think you're going to end up with point-wise?
TONY ROMO: (Laughter) That's a great question. I think answer to the first question. Last year I just no offense I wasn't really good. I feel like I just wasn't playing that great of golf, comparative. At the time you think you're doing some good things, but it wasn't tight.
I didn't have the same natural repeatable move, I feel like. There was a lot of hands involved, different things that I feel like we have a little bit firmer grasp on. So I think the consistency is quite a bit higher. I have more shots, things of that nature that I feel comfortable doing.
And really, you know, can you have a bad day in golf? Absolutely. Last year it was just because I really wasn't that good. But this year, you know, I'm hoping for me it will be putting, just as it's the lag putting. It's the times that you -- the poa annua, it can be difficult at different times. You have the mountains. You have the poa annua on the greens and firmness and the speed they're at; they're really good right now.
You have to give the course superintendent and these people, they've been fantastic here at Edgewood. It's in great condition, and it's going to play.
Q. Had you played in as many tournaments the previous year as you have since last year's American Century to today?
TONY ROMO: I haven't thought about that. I definitely have played in more that I felt I needed to -- sometimes you're always practicing. So you're playing in the tournament but I'm always trying to improve.
It's like, yeah, I know I can go back and hit a trap draw here, but that's not going to hold the green at a certain level with the front pin. You're kind of like I need to get these shots down. So you're going to practice those while under the gun.
I think a few of those tournaments this year were do whatever you can to get it in the hole and get a score. And I think this week will be a little like that. Although, I feel more comfortable right now than any other tournament I've played in this year.
Q. With NFL training camps coming up, what's your scouting report on the 49ers and Garoppolo and as well as Raiders and Carr?
TONY ROMO: I think both of those teams are -- they could be really good or the league is very tough, from week to week, game to game. It's not just about a player or -- the 49ers defensive line looks to be outstanding.
I know what they have in their schematic advantage on offense with Kyle Shanahan. And so if Jimmy's able to play a full season, which I think everyone's excited about seeing, if that happens, I think hopefully he can play great football and you'll see the 49ers win a lot of games.
If you can have a great "D" line and you can have really good strong quarterback play, it's a difficult combination. And then Raiders are, this is one of those things where it's they could be really good but you just don't know until they put the pieces out there and see how it kind of fits together.
I think we all know Jon Gruden. He's a great football coach and he's going to have them giving everything they have. They're a little tougher to kind of decipher right now.
Q. Tony, as favorite at the book, do you think the oddsmakers got it right?
TONY ROMO: No, it should be like 10-to-1. Just keep going up. I don't know, I mean, it's like anything, if you play a lot of golf and people could see it -- Mark has earned the right to be in the position he is because you can't accidentally win here; you have to play good golf at the time when it matters.
And even if it's just for a stretch. You've got to get hot and gotta play good. So I think it's all pretty right on. Mark's talented. But there's, like I said, four or five guys that are great, too.
Q. Jon, let's talk about the future of this event. What do you see during the next five years happening with this event? And also give us a little bit more about what the long-term sponsor contract agreements are.
JON MILLER: We have a great relationship with American Century. Our deal goes out there 2023 right now. We're very happy, obviously, with this area and this facility and the course.
And I want to echo what Tony said about the golf course. The superintendent and his team have done an unbelievable job. The course has never been in better playing shape than it is right now.
And that's a real credit to the hard work and investment that the people here have done. As far as the future is concerned, we have this on our schedule for as long as we can keep it going. We have a great title sponsor, who is a great sponsor. We have no shortage of players. Unfortunately, I wish we could accommodate more than the 90 or 91 players we have this year.
We're a little bit hamstrung in the fact that we only have one golf course here. We don't do a cut because we want to make sure that everybody who comes to this event gets to see the player who they want to follow every day that they're here. And we need to be done by 6:00 at night on the East Coast to accommodate the television window.
So all of those things kind of are factors that have to be considered as we put this together. But we continue to go out and recruit and look for new names. We have people who are looking for players. The players are some of the best recruiters we have.
And as I said, we're very excited and very bullish. We've got three new sponsors who have joined us this year in Bridgestone, TravisMathew and MasterCraft to go along with Korbel and American Century. So we're very excited and pleased to have them all involved with us.
TONY ROMO: He's right. It's hard to get like an invite. It was weird talking to Justin today, Timberlake, that he was on the wait list. So that was good to see that he got in last minute. (Laughter).
JON MILLER: He's on probation, you know, we're going to see how he does tomorrow we'll see if we let him in the field on Friday.
TONY ROMO: Not officially in yet.
Q. Speaking of that, I see the pairing on Friday has you and JT and Steph in the same group.
JON MILLER: How did that happen?
TONY ROMO: Someone must know somebody.
JON MILLER: Look, we try to make those Friday pairings attractive. And we like to have some fun with it. For example, we'll bring the three Atlanta Braves pitchers back, Smoltz, Glavine and Maddux together. We have an all-Green Bay pairing, with Jordy Nelson, A.J. Hawk and Aaron Rodgers. So we look for ways to try to take advantage of some of those matchups. It's a lot of fun.
Once we get done with Friday, it's all on the merit system and how well you've played. And that will set up how we prepare and put the groups together for the weekend.
Q. Tony, you're anticipating a lot of noise out there with JT and Steph.
TONY ROMO: We had a great team last year. They're both great guys. We support each other. We're all friends. It makes it easy. And I think it's just fun to like root for guys and want to see them succeed. When someone makes a putt, you're not necessarily competing right there; you're literally, like, happy for them. And I think it's enjoyable when you get a chance to do that with some of the other guys.
JON MILLER: I think what's fun to see is both Tony and Steph have played in front of huge arenas of screaming fans. So they're used to all the noise. They're not looking for quiet when they're standing over a ball. The cheering's not going to bother them at all. Justin, on the other hand, he's a little more sensitive to the noise out there. (Laughter).
TONY ROMO: We'll try to get him right mentally.
Q. Are you more comfortable being interviewed or doing an interview now?
TONY ROMO: Oh, gosh, I'm way more comfortable getting interviewed. I had to do an interview or two last year, I was, like, what do you do?
I interviewed Tom Brady during the Super Bowl. They had a lead-up for CBS. I was there. I walked in. Hey, we need you for this interview. I was, like, I don't know how to interview anybody. So how do you feel this week? Good. All right. All right. Good talk. (Laughter). Any follow-ups anyone? That's kind of how it went down. That's a good question.
JON MILLER: You've got a future in this business.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports