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.'
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.'
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    Berger more than ready to rebound at Travelers

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:54 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Daniel Berger hopes that this year he gets to be on the other end of a viral moment at the Travelers Championship.

    Berger was a hard-luck runner-up last year at TPC River Highlands, a spectator as Jordan Spieth holed a bunker shot to defeat him in a playoff. It was the second straight year that the 25-year-old came up just short outside Hartford, as he carried a three-shot lead into the 2016 event before fading to a tie for fifth.

    While he wasn’t lacking any motivation after last year’s close call, Berger got another dose last week at the U.S. Open when he joined Tony Finau as a surprise participant in the final group Sunday, only to shoot a 73 and drift to a T-6 finish.

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    “It was one of the best experiences of my professional golf career so far. I feel like I’m going to be in such a better place next time I’m in that position, having felt those emotions and kind of gone through it,” Berger said. “There was a lot of reflection after that because I felt like I played good enough to get it done Sunday. I didn’t make as many putts as I wanted to, but I hit a lot of really good putts. And that’s really all you can do.”

    Berger missed the cut earlier this month to end his quest for three straight titles in Memphis, but his otherwise consistent season has now included six top-20 finishes since January. After working his way into contention last week and still with a score to settle at TPC River Highlands, he’s eager to get back to work against another star-studded field.

    “I think all these experiences you just learn from,” Berger said. “I think last week, having learned from that, I think that’s even going to make me a little better this week. So I’m excited to get going.”

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    Rory tired of the near-misses, determined to close

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:46 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Rory McIlroy has returned to the Travelers Championship with an eye on bumping up his winning percentage.

    McIlroy stormed from the back of the pack to win the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, but that remains his lone worldwide win since the 2016 Tour Championship. It speaks to McIlroy’s considerable ability and lofty expectations that, even with a number of other high finishes this season, he is left unsatisfied.

    “I feel like I’ve had five realistic chances to win this year, and I’ve been able to close out one of them. That’s a bit disappointing, I guess,” McIlroy said. “But at least I’ve given myself five chances to win golf tournaments, which is much more than I did last year.”

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    The most memorable of McIlroy’s near-misses is likely the Masters, when he played alongside Patrick Reed in Sunday’s final group but struggled en route to a T-5 finish. But more frustrating in the Ulsterman’s eyes were his runner-up at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, when he led by two shots with eight holes to go, and a second-place showing behind Francesco Molinari at the BMW PGA Championship in May.

    “There’s been some good golf in there,” he said. “I feel like I let Dubai and Wentworth get away a little bit.”

    He’ll have a chance to rectify that trend this week at TPC River Highlands, where he finished T-17 last year in his tournament debut and liked the course and the tournament enough to keep it on his schedule. It comes on the heels of a missed cut at the U.S. Open, when he was 10 over through 11 holes and never got on track. McIlroy views that result as more of an aberration during a season in which he has had plenty of chances to contend on the weekend.

    “I didn’t necessarily play that badly last week. I feel like if I play similarly this week, I might have a good chance to win,” McIlroy said. “I think when you play in conditions like that, it magnifies parts of your game that maybe don’t stack up quite as good as the rest of your game, and it magnified a couple of things for me that I worked on over the weekend.”

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    Sunday run at Shinnecock gave Reed even more confidence

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 9:08 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – While many big names are just coming around to the notion that the Travelers Championship is worth adding to the schedule, Patrick Reed has been making TPC River Highlands one of his favorite haunts for years.

    Reed will make his seventh straight appearance outside Hartford, where he tied for fifth last year and was T-11 the year before that. He is eager to get back to the grind after a stressful week at the U.S. Open, both because of his past success here and because it will offer him a chance to build on a near-miss at Shinnecock Hills.

    Reed started the final round three shots off the lead, but he quickly stormed toward the top of the leaderboard and became one of Brooks Koepka’s chief threats after birdies on five of his first seven holes. Reed couldn’t maintain the momentum in the middle of the round, carding three subsequent bogeys, and ultimately tied for fourth.

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    It was a bittersweet result, but Reed is focusing on the positives after taking a couple days to reflect.

    “If you would have told me that I had a chance to win coming down Sunday, I would have been pleased,” Reed said. “I felt like I just made too many careless mistakes towards the end, and because of that, you’re not going to win at any major making careless mistakes, especially on Sunday.”

    Reed broke through for his first major title at the Masters, and he has now finished fourth or better in three straight majors dating back to a runner-up at the PGA last summer. With another chance to add to that record next month in Scotland, he hopes to carry the energy from last week’s close call into this week’s event on a course where he feels right at home.

    “It just gives me confidence, more than anything,” Reed said. “Of course I would have loved to have closed it out and win, but it was a great week all in all, and there’s a lot of stuff I can take from it moving forward. That’s how I’m looking at it.”

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    Koepka back to work, looking to add to trophy collection

    By Will GrayJune 20, 2018, 8:53 pm

    CROMWELL, Conn. – Days after ensuring the U.S. Open trophy remained in his possession for another year, Brooks Koepka went back to work.

    Koepka flew home to Florida after successfully defending his title at Shinnecock Hills, celebrating the victory Monday night with Dustin Johnson, Paulina Gretzky, swing coach Claude Harmon III and a handful of close friends. But he didn’t fully unwind because of a decision to honor his commitment to the Travelers Championship, becoming the first player to tee it up the week after a U.S. Open win since Justin Rose in 2013.

    Koepka withdrew from the Travelers pro-am, but he flew north to Connecticut on Wednesday and arrived to TPC River Highlands around 3 p.m., quickly heading to the driving range to get in a light practice session.

    “It still hasn’t sunk in, to be honest with you,” Koepka said. “I’m still focused on this week. It was just like, ‘All right, if I can get through this week, then I’m going to be hanging with my buddies next week.’ I know then maybe it’ll sink in, and I’ll get to reflect on it a little bit more.”

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    Koepka’s plans next week with friends in Boston meant this week’s event outside Hartford made logistical sense. But he was also motivated to play this week because, plainly, he hasn’t had that many playing opportunities this year after missing nearly four months with a wrist injury.

    “I’ve had so many months at home being on the couch. I don’t need to spend any more time on the couch,” Koepka said. “As far as skipping, it never crossed my mind.”

    Koepka’s legacy was undoubtedly bolstered by his win at Shinnecock, as he became the first player in nearly 30 years to successfully defend a U.S. Open title. But he has only one other PGA Tour win to his credit, that being the 2015 Waste Management Phoenix Open, and his goal for the rest of the season is to make 2018 his first year with multiple trophies on the mantle.

    “If you’re out here for more than probably 15 events, it gives you a little better chance to win a couple times. Being on the sidelines isn’t fun,” Koepka said. “Keep doing what we’re doing and just try to win multiple times every year. I feel like I have the talent. I just never did it for whatever reason. Always felt like we ran into a buzzsaw. So just keep plugging away.”