Romero From British to Win to Tiger

By Associated PressJuly 31, 2007, 4:00 pm
WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio -- Ian Poulter set the stakes at $20 a hole in a friendly skins game Tuesday afternoon at Firestone Country Club, but then he backed away from his tee shot and looked over at Andres Romero.
 
'Hang on,' Poulter said. 'You were third at the Open, won in Germany. Let's see ... that's $1.5 million the last two weeks. We can play for whatever you want.'
 
Romero struggles with English, but the 26-year-old Argentine understood enough that a smile creased his face.
 
He was still smiling some two hours later when he smashed his tee shot down the middle of the 464-yard 18th hole at Firestone, leaving him only a sand wedge to the green that he spun back to 8 feet. Poulter stuck out the end of his putter and nudged him in the back, but Romero still curled the putt in the right side of the cup.
 
It has taken Romero eight years to find his way since turning pro at age 16.
 
He spent one year in Europe's minor leagues before earning his card, finished 35th on the Order of Merit as a rookie on the European Tour and turned just about every head along the way.
 
'He just makes it look so easy,' Graeme Storm said. 'He's fearless.'
 
The rest of the world is just beginning to find this out.
 
Romero sent shock waves across Carnoustie two weeks ago when he made 10 birdies in 16 holes on a track reputed to be the toughest links course in the world. Even with a double bogey from the gorse, he found himself leading the British Open with two holes to play when the pressure caught up to him.
 
Opting for an iron out of the rough, his ball shot into the Barry Burn, ricocheted off the stone walls some 50 yards across the adjacent 18th fairway and out-of-bounds by about a yard. Romero's first instinct was a 3-wood, and he went back to that for his fourth shot with an incredible play to 25 feet, allowing him to escape with only a double bogey.
 
He caught one more piece of bad luck on the 18th when his par putt spun out of the cup. He wound up one shot out of the playoff, which Padraig Harrington won over Sergio Garcia.
 
Instead of sulking, he found a small measure of redemption seven days later when he fired at every flag and won the Deutsche Bank Players Championship of Europe, moving him up to No. 29 in the world. That was enough for him to qualify for the Bridgestone Invitational, an $8 million World Golf Championship that starts Thursday.
 
And it keeps getting better.
 
No sooner had he walked off the 18th green than someone mentioned he would be playing with Tiger Woods the first two days.
 
Another big smile.
 
But he couldn't find the right word to explain what was going through his head.
 
'I had a third at the British, a win, now playing with Tiger,' he said through Nelson Silverio, a bilingual PGA TOUR official. 'It's great. I didn't even have this tournament on my schedule, and now to be paired with the No. 1 player in the world ... it's complicado.'
 
Complicated?
 
He shook his head, and spoke again to Silverio.
 
'There's a lot going on,' he said. 'And I'm just really looking forward to it.'
 
Maybe it was just a coincidence, but the International Federation of PGA Tours announced on Monday that the Tour de las Americas had joined as an associate member. The Tour de las Americas is based in Venezuela and staged 14 events last year. Whether it's the next bastion of golf remains to be seen, but South America is flying high these days.
 
Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open at Oakmont by beating the top two players in the world ranking, Woods and Jim Furyk. Then came Romero, who came within two holes of giving Argentina another major champion.
 
'He has a lot of quality, a lot of ability,' Cabrera said, before reverting to his native tongue. 'Mucho, mucho talento.'
 
They were teammates in the World Cup last year in Barbados and one shot out of the lead going into the last round, when the putts stopped falling and they had to settle for a tie for fifth.
 
Romero had won a tournament in Argentina and was on his way to Munich to resume his European Tour schedule when he watched the final round at Oakmont as Cabrera surged into the lead and delivered Argentina its first major in 40 years.
 
'He definitely inspired me,' Romero said. 'It was great to see him won on TV, and I think it opened my eyes and told me that I could do this, also. It not only helped me at the British Open, but it inspired me to win last week.'
 
Along with talent, Cabrera sees a desire that comes from starting with nothing.
 
Romero was born in Tucuman and grew up in a poor section of Yerba Buena, a short walk from a golf course whose members made their money in the sugar industry. He watched them play, took a job as a caddie at age 10 and was taught by an uncle, who gave him his first full set of clubs when he decided to turn pro as a teenager.
 
There are times when Romero looks a lot like Garcia did when he was a 19-year-old in 1999, giving Woods all he could handle in the PGA Championship at Medinah. He has a powerful array of shots, and he rarely considers the danger.
 
Even with his brilliant play at the British Open, he is still somewhat of an unknown. And he figures to be lost in the crowd playing with Woods, a five-time winner at Firestone.
 
'They'll know who I am,' he said, pausing to smile, 'because it's in the pairing sheet.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Bridgestone Invitational
  • Getty Images

    McIlroy (65) one back in Abu Dhabi

    By Randall MellJanuary 20, 2018, 1:09 pm

    Rory McIlroy moved into position to send a powerful message in his first start of the new year at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship.

    Closing out with back-to-back birdies Saturday, McIlroy posted a 7-under-par 65, leaving him poised to announce his return to golf in spectacular fashion after a winless year in 2017.

    McIlroy heads into Sunday just a single shot behind the leaders, Thomas Pieters (67) and Ross Fisher (65), who are at 17-under overall at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

    Making his first start after taking three-and-a-half months off to regroup from an injury-riddled year, McIlroy is looking sharp in his bid to win for the first time in 16 months. He chipped in for birdie from 50 feet at the 17th on Saturday and two-putted from 60 feet for another birdie to finish his round.


    Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship


    McIlroy took 50 holes before making a bogey in Abu Dhabi. He pushed his tee shot into a greenside bunker at the 15th, where he left a delicate play in the bunker, then barely blasted his third out before holing a 15-footer for bogey.

    McIlroy notably opened the tournament playing alongside world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, who started the new year winning the PGA Tour’s Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in an eight-shot rout just two weeks ago. McIlroy was grouped in the first two rounds with Johnson and Tommy Fleetwood, the European Tour’s Player of the Year last season. McIlroy sits ahead of both of them going into the final round, with Johnson (68) tied for 12th, four shots back, and Fleetwood (67) tied for fourth, two shots back.

    Those first two rounds left McIlroy feeling good about his off season work.

    “That proves I’m back to full fitness and 100 percent health,” he said going into Saturday. “DJ is definitely the No. 1 player in the world right now and of, if not the best, drivers of the golf ball, and to be up there with him over the first two days proves to me I’m doing the right things and gives me confidence.”

    Getty Images

    Monty grabs lead entering final round in season-opener

    By Associated PressJanuary 20, 2018, 4:00 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Colin Montgomerie shot a second straight 7-under 65 to take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    The 54-year-old Scot, a six-time winner on the over-50 tour, didn't miss a fairway on Friday and made five birdies on the back nine to reach 14 under at Hualalai.

    Montgomerie has made 17 birdies through 36 holes and said he will have to continue cashing in on his opportunities.

    ''We know that I've got to score something similar to what I've done – 66, 67, something like that, at least,'' Montgomerie said. ''You know the competition out here is so strong that if you do play away from the pins, you'll get run over. It's tough, but hey, it's great.''


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    First-round co-leaders Gene Sauers and Jerry Kelly each shot 68 and were 12 under.

    ''I hit the ball really well. You know, all the putts that dropped yesterday didn't drop today,'' Kelly said. ''I was just short and burning edges. It was good putting again. They just didn't go in.''

    David Toms was three shots back after a 66. Woody Austin, Mark Calcavecchia and Doug Garwood each shot 67 and were another shot behind.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, was six shots back after a 67.

    The limited-field tournament on Hawaii's Big Island includes last season's winners, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    ''We've enjoyed ourselves thoroughly here,'' Montgomerie said. ''It's just a dramatic spot, isn't it? If you don't like this, well, I'm sorry, take a good look in the mirror, you know?''

    Getty Images

    The missing link: Advice from successful tour pros

    By Phil BlackmarJanuary 20, 2018, 1:24 am

    Today’s topic is significant in that it underscores the direction golf is headed, a direction that has me a little concerned.

    Now, more than ever, it has become the norm for PGA Tour players to put together a team to assist in all aspects of their career. These teams can typically include the player’s swing coach, mental coach, manager, workout specialist, dietician, physical therapist, short-game guru, doctor, accountant, nanny and wife. Though it often concerns me the player may be missing out when others are making decisions for them, that is not the topic.

    I want to talk about what most players seem to be inexplicably leaving off their teams.

    One of the things that separates great players from the rest of the pack – other than talent – is the great player’s ability to routinely stay comfortable and play with focus and clarity in all situations. Though innate to many, this skill is trainable and can be learned. Don’t get too excited, the details of such a plan are too long and more suited for a book than the short confines of this article.

    So, if that aspect of the game is so important, where is the representative on the player’s team who has stood on the 18th tee with everything on the line? Where is the representative on the team who has experienced, over and over, what the player will be experiencing? In other words, where is the successful former tour player on the team?

    You look to tennis and many players have such a person on their team. These teacher/mentors include the likes of Boris Becker, Ivan Lendl, Jimmy Connors and Brad Gilbert. Why is it not the norm in golf?

    Sure, a few players have sought out the advice of Jack Nicklaus, but he’s not part of a team. The teaching ranks also include some former players like Butch Harmon and a few others. But how many teams include a player who has contended in a major, let alone won one or more?

    I’m not here to argue the value and knowledge of all the other coaches who make up a player’s team. But how can the value of a successful tour professional be overlooked? If I’m going to ask someone what I should do in various situations on the course, I would prefer to include the experienced knowledge of players who have been there themselves.

    This leads me to the second part of today’s message. Is there a need for the professional players to mix with professional teachers to deliver the best and most comprehensive teaching philosophy to average players? I feel there is.

    Most lessons are concerned with changing the student’s swing. Often, this is done with little regard for how it feels to the student because the teacher believes the information is correct and more important than the “feels” of the student. “Stick with it until it’s comfortable” is often the message. This directive methodology was put on Twitter for public consumption a short time back:

    On the other hand, the professional player is an expert at making a score and understands the intangible side of the game. The intangible side says: “Mechanics cannot stand alone in making a good player.” The intangible side understands “people feel things differently”; ask Jim Furyk to swing like Dustin Johnson, or vice versa. This means something that looks good to us may not feel right to someone else.

    The intangible side lets us know that mechanics and feels must walk together in order for the player to succeed. From Ben Hogan’s book:

    “What I have learned I have learned by laborious trial and error, watching a good player do something that looked right to me, stumbling across something that felt right to me, experimenting with that something to see if it helped or hindered, adopting it if it helped, refining it sometimes, discarding it if it didn’t help, sometimes discarding it later if it proved undependable in competition, experimenting continually with new ideas and old ideas and all manner of variations until I arrived at a set of fundamentals that appeared to me to be right because they accomplished a very definite purpose, a set of fundamentals which proved to me they were right because they stood up and produced under all kinds of pressure.”

    Hogan beautifully described the learning process that could develop the swings of great players like DJ, Furyk, Lee Trevino, Jordan Spieth, Nicklaus, etc.

    Bob Toski is still teaching. Steve Elkington is helping to bring us the insight of Jackie Burke. Hal Sutton has a beautiful teaching facility outside of Houston. And so on. Just like mechanics and feels, it’s not either-or – the best message comes from both teachers and players.

    Lately, it seems the scale has swung more to one side; let us not forget the value of insights brought to us by the players who have best mastered the game.

    Getty Images

    Woods, Rahm, Rickie, J-Day headline Torrey field

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 20, 2018, 12:47 am

    Tiger Woods is set to make his 2018 debut.

    Woods is still part of the final field list for next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the headliner of a tournament that includes defending champion Jon Rahm, Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Rose, Rickie Fowler, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day.

    In all, 12 of the top 26 players in the world are teeing it up at Torrey Pines.

    Though Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, he hasn’t broken 71 in his past seven rounds there and hasn’t played all four rounds since 2013, when he won. Last year he missed the cut after rounds of 76-72, then lasted just one round in Dubai before he withdrew with back spasms.

    After a fourth back surgery, Woods didn’t return to competition until last month’s Hero World Challenge, where he tied for ninth. 

    Woods has committed to play both the Farmers Insurance Open and next month's Genesis Open at Riviera, which benefits his foundation.