Romero almost perfect

By Brian HewittAugust 9, 2008, 4:00 pm
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2008 US Open 81x90BLOOMFIELD TOWNSHIP, Mich. ' There is the tee shot at the 12th hole at Augusta National on Masters Sunday in a capricious wind. There is the tee shot at the 17th hole at TPC Sawgrass in a howling wind. There is the chip from behind the green at the 18th hole on a firm fast day at Interlachen Country Club near Minneapolis.
 
These are just three of the more notorious pucker-up shots in championship golf ' shots that make the inside of your mouth feel like youve been sucking on a lemon.
 
This, in a roundabout way, brings us to an explosive 27-year-old Argentine named Andres Romero.
 
When I ran into Pat Croswell, the director of golf at Oakland Hills, Saturday morning, I asked him if there was a pucker-up shot on his golf course.
 
Croswell didnt hesitate. The second shot at 16, he said. Especially when the wind blows like it was Friday and is today.
 
Friday at Oakland Hills in the second round of the 90th PGA Championship Andres Romero made a quadruple bogey 8 at the 406-yard 16th when he hit two balls in the water that jealously and zealously guards the front and right sides of the green.
 
If Romero had made par there Friday, he would be leading the championship right now. And thats because he followed a second round 78 with a blistering Saturday 65 at Oakland Hills that he signed for before the rains came and shut everything down for the rest of the day.
 
More on the 65, which matched the competitive course record at Oakland Hills, shortly.
 
First, here are Romeros words, through an interpreter, on the snowman at 16 Friday: I played a great first shot, then a perfect 9-iron from 140 yards. It bounced in the front of the green, but like the wind blows just in the moment and it went down to the water.
 
Then again I had tried to make a good shot, but again a lot of backspin, again to the water. And after that I got mad and I played very disconcentrated, not very concentrated the whole rest of the round.
 
Romero had opened with a highly-respectable Thursday 69. But the quad at 16, his seventh hole of the day, sent him reeling. For a while, he said, I was fighting for the lead of the tournament. Then I was just trying to make the cut.
 
Romero first burst onto the international golf scene at the 2007 Open Championship staged at dreaded Carnoustie in Scotland. On Sunday Romero lit the place up with 10 birdies and missed the Padraig Harrington-Sergio Garcia playoff by a shot only because he finished double bogey, bogey.
 
It was a wild final round ride for Romero. It included just four pars, the last of which came on the seventh hole. But when it was over, Romeros talent was no longer a secret.
 
He went on to win the Deutsche Bank Players Championship of Europe soon thereafter and saw his world ranking rocket from 129 to 14 in two short weeks. Earlier this year, he captured the Zurich Classic in New Orleans for his first win in the U.S.
 
And now he finds himself sitting pretty in another major. I have a chance tomorrow and, well, I have to wait, he said. But its great to be here.
 
Especially great because he only has 18 holes left. J.B. Holmes, the 36-hole leader at Oakland Hills, hadnt even teed off before weather prevented the championship from resuming Saturday.
 
Romeros Saturday round included two bogeys and seven birdies, the sweetest of which had to be at 16. This time he didnt pucker up. Instead, he drilled an 8-iron to six feet and converted the birdie.
 
So suddenly Romero finds himself in fast company. Previously, eight other players, including Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriguez and Tom Lehman shared the competitive course record.
 
To be sure, Romero is 2-over and still three shots back of Holmes. But, to repeat, he has one more completed round under his golfing belt. And at Oakland Hills this week thats hard currency.
 
Plus, with the exception of one hole Friday, he appears to have solved Oakland Hills, to the extent that the monster can be solved. Its difficult to know the strategy, former PGA champion Paul Azinger explained. I dont know if its to bomb it as far as you can or get it in the fairway. I dont know.
 
Andres Romero, right now, does appear to know. I played an excellent round, Romero said afterward. Almost perfect.
 
And never once did he look like he a man who had just gargled lemon juice.
 
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