Argentinas Romero Leads Senior PGA

RSS

2007 Senior PGA ChampionshipKIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Argentina's Eduardo Romero never minded playing in strong wind in his home country. So the Atlantic gusts Thursday in the Senior PGA Championship were little problem.
 
Romero shot a 4-under 68 to take a one-stroke lead over Naomichi 'Joe' Ozaki at The Ocean Course, which is hosting its highest profile event since the 1991 Ryder Cup.
 
Back then, the world's best were outfoxed and rattled by the shifty wind. And while many golfers couldn't handle the gusts of up to 31 mph Thursday, Romero simply called on his youth in Cordoba when he routinely played windier rounds.
 
'I feel very comfortable with the wind,' he said. 'I'm playing a lot of times in this wind.'
 
It showed Thursday. Romero had birdies on all four par 5s, landing his approaches inside 5 feet each time.
 
He looked as if he'd have a bogey-free round, but he missed a 2-foot par putt on No. 18. 'Stupid on that,' Romero said. 'But it is OK because the day was perfect ... very nice.'
 
Asked if he'd like to keep it blowing this way all weekend, Romero didn't hesitate: 'Oh yes, of course.'
 
Not everyone shared his opinion.
 
The wind clanged hospitality tents and whipped competitors slacks. When John Jacobs spied fellow competitor Jim Ahern after the morning round, he yelled, 'Jimmy, you made it.'
 
Dave Stockton, captain of the victorious U.S. Ryder Cup team 16 years back, found the course as maddening now as his players did then. His 81 included a triple-bogey 8 on the second hole.
 
Irwin, one of Stockton's Cup players, put up a snowman of his own on the 16th after his ball plugged completely in a deep waste bunker alongside the green. Irwin held his hands out, wondering where his shot landed. Irwin, a four-time Senior PGA winner, wound up with a 78.
 
Former U.S. Open champion Hubert Green was 3 under through four holes, but finished 8 over the rest of the way.
 
Tony Jacklin, who owns U.S. and British Open titles, was assessed a two-stroke penalty when he incorrectly replaced his ball on the 14th green after the wind had moved it.
 
Tournament officials did their part to counter the wind, using front tee locations that sliced about 200 yards off the listed course distance of 7,201.
 
Tom Watson said the placements kept competitors from needing full-blown 3-woods to reach the treacherous 17th, shrunk 19 yards to 178.
 
'Thank you, very much. They used some common sense, those people at the PGA,' Watson said.
 
Ozaki had birdies on the fourth, fifth and ninth holes to move to 3 under. He was briefly in the lead at 4 under after a birdie on the 11th hole. But he three-putted from about 35 feet for a bogey on the 12th.
 
Chip Beck was alone in third with a 70. Two-time PGA champ Nick Price, playing his first senior major, led a group at 71.
 
Last week's Champions Tour winner, Brad Bryant, also was three strokes behind at 71. He and Massey Kuramoto were the only two players who teed off in the afternoon to break par.
 
'It was pretty bizarre out there,' Bryant said of conditions.
 
Ozaki struggled to maintain his focus no matter which direction the wind blew. 'You just can't control it,' he said through an interpreter. 'I'm not sure how to avoid problems or how to avoid the wind.'
 
Forecasts call for calmer gusts this weekend. Still, Romero, the reigning Champions Tour rookie of the year, wants the wind to blow hard and fast.
 
After first feeling the wind, caddie Alejandro Malina told Romero they'd be satisfied with a 71. 'But I made 68,' Romero said, smiling. 'It's much better.'
 
DIVOTS
Here's The Ocean Course in a nutshell: Craig Stadler chipped in for an eagle 3 on the 11th hole. Then he hit into the water on the par-4 12th and took double bogey. ... Denis Watson took just 23 putts during his 71. He opened with seven straight one-putt greens and closed with five one-putts in a row. ... Guillermo Encina of Chile holed out for an eagle 2 on the 12th hole. ... Defending champion Jay Haas overcame a stretch of three straight bogeys to shoot even-par 72.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Senior PGA Championship
     
    Copyright 2006 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.