Santo Domingo - Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo shone early, but struggled late on his way to shooting a 77 in his PGA Tour debut on Thursday at the Corales Championship.
American Brice Garnett fired a bogey-free nine-under par 63 at the Puntacana resort to seize a one-stroke lead over Canada's Corey Conners in the first PGA event staged in the Dominican Republic.
But with the world's to players competing at the World Golf Championships Match-Play Championship in Texas this week, it was retired NFL star Romo who boasted the biggest name in the field even though he played as an amateur on a sponsor's exemption.
"I had it going for a little bit. I had it close," said Romo, who played the first 12 holes at level par.
"I feel comfortable. Just a couple of swings as I got to the back nine that you want back, but tomorrow I'll be more committed. I'll know the lines a little bit better and hopefully I come out and go low."
The 37-year-old veteran of 14 NFL campaigns with the Cowboys opened with back-to-back bogeys, but answered with birdies at the par-5 fourth and par-4 fifth holes, the latter on a tremendous 40-foot putt.
Romo followed another bogey at the par-5 seventh with a birdie at eight.
Driver woes struck on the back nine, missed fairways leading to a bogey at 13, a double bogey at the par-5 14th and bogeys at 15 and 16 as well.
"I kind of knew that the most difficult part really would be the opening holes just in the sense of getting yourself comfortable and acclimated to the environment," Romo said.
"Then in some ways it's as simple as just getting the speed of the greens down. I just left too many putts short."
But Romo did finish two strokes ahead of Guy Borots and D.A. Points and level with England's Brian Davis and Americans Keith Clearwater and Robert Gamez.
"He probably could have shot a score around even. He got a couple bad breaks in there. But his game is not far off at all," said Romo playing partner Denny McCarthy.
"He hit a tough stretch on the back nine. The back nine wasn't playing that easy. It's pretty long. I think he'll be a little more comfortable tomorrow."
Garnett, who began off the 10th tee, birdied six of his first eight holes as well as the third, sixth and seventh to seize the lead.
Conners was undone by a bogey at the fifth but still one ahead of a pack on 66 that included Zimbabwe's Brendon de Jonge and China's Zhang Xinjun.
Scores after Thursday's opening round of the PGA Tour's Corales
Championship in the Dominican Republic (USA unless noted, par-72):
63 - Brice Garnett
64 - Corey Conners (CAN)
66 - Jonathan Byrd, Brendon de Jonge (ZIM), Steve Wheatcroft, Denny McCarthy, Keith Mitchell, Zhang Xinjun (CHN), Troy Matteson
67 - Kevin Tway, Tyler McCumber, Paul Dunne (IRL), George McNeill, Ken Duke, Seungsu Han
68 - Kelly Kraft, Seamus Power (IRL), Ethan Tracy, Shawn Stefani, Martin Flores, Michael Kim