Peter Jacobsen, Allen Doyle and Morris Hatalsky were a stroke behind, and Loren Roberts, Bobby Wadkins and Bruce Lietzke topped an 11-player group at 67 on the Newport Beach Country Club.
'I played very aggressive,' said Romero, who is from Argentina. 'I think I will have to play aggressive the whole tournament.'
A lack of rain this winter on the course near the Pacific Ocean has caused a lack of rough and it was evident in the scores.
The scoring average of the 78 players in the event was 69.76, nearly two strokes lower than the Champions Tour average.
Purtzer, who won the event in 2004 aided by a course-record 60, said the rounds could go lower on the weekend.
'I think not having any rain hurts the course a little bit,' Purtzer said. 'It makes the course a little defenseless.
'The golf course is playing fast also. The par 5s, most of the guys can get there in two on two of them. The fairways are hard and fast.'
Haas, who along with Crenshaw had the only bogey-free rounds among the leaders, said, 'I think you'll see someone shoot a low score. There are a lot of guys close together now.'
Crenshaw, who had not recorded a round in the 60s in his six previous rounds, found his game at the 6,584-yard layout, the second shortest on the tour's schedule.
'We enjoy playing this golf course,' Crenshaw said. 'It's not a killer course. You have to place your shots on the green. There are subtle tilts on this green that I find very interesting.'
Though the course is short, it should not be mistaken for a pushover, as Zoeller found out when he made a bogey on the 339-yard, par-4 first hole.
'It was like the pig and the hog on that hole,' Zoeller said. 'Pigs get fat and hogs get slaughtered. I tried to be too aggressive and be a hog and I got slaughtered.'
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