Romero stumbles in, opens door for challengers
Eduardo Romero entered Saturday's third round of the Senior PGA Championship having made only three bogeys. But the Argentinean closed his round with back-to-back bogeys to trim his lead to just two shots over Denis Watson and Nick Price heading to Sunday's final round at the Ocean Course.
By T.J. Auclair, PGA.com Interactive Producer
KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- Argentina's Eduardo Romero had been as close to mistake-free in a major championship as most players can only dream of being. But costly bogeys on the final two holes of his third round Saturday in the 68th Senior PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course -- just his fourth and fifth bogeys of the week -- may have made this a tournament.
Romero, who is looking to become the first international player to win the Senior PGA Championship since Gary Player in 1990, shot a 1-under-par 71 on moving day. At 7-under-par 209 total, the Argentine is two shots clear of Zimbabwe natives and good friends Nick Price and Denis Watson, who both sit at 5 under with 18 holes to play.
Japan's Joe Ozaki is the only other player in the field left in red numbers at 4 under after an even-par 72 on Saturday.
While Romero conceded that two bogeys to close a round are hard to swallow, he wasn't as disappointed with his bogey on 17 as he was with the one he made on 18.
"I make a stupid bogey, especially on 18," Romero said. "The 17 is OK. That's OK. It's a good bogey because it's difficult hole. But stupid bogey on 18. And then it was perfect drive and 145 yards to the flag and then just a little push, a little bit. And then just run off the green. But it is OK. I'm very hard on myself, but it is OK."
If there's anything Romero has going for him aside from the two-shot lead, it's the fact that his lone Champions Tour win was the 2006 JELD-WEN Tradition -- the last major championship played on the Champions Tour. Also, he hasn't been too shabby on hole Nos. 7 and 11, having birdied both in all three rounds.
But Romero called Saturday's birdie on No. 14, a 194-yard par 3, the best birdie of the week.
"Fantastic 6-iron," he said. "I put the ball one-and-a-half feet short of the hole and make birdie."
Price, a three-time major champion in his heyday on the PGA TOUR in the mid-1990s, turned in a 2-under-par 70 for the second day in a row. He turned 50 in January and this is his seventh event on the Champions Tour, but he hasn't won a tournament since the 2002 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial on the PGA TOUR.
"This is the first time I've been in the hunt for a golf tournament since the Byron Nelson in 2005," he said. "So it's a good feeling. There were some good memories today, good feelings. And especially finishing on a positive note. I'm looking forward to playing tomorrow. I really am."
Price also said that despite starting the final round trailing by two shots, he believes the pressure will be squarely on the shoulders of Romero.
"Well he let the three of us back in the championship," said Price, alluding to Romero's closing bogeys. "If he had posted 9 under, we would have had our work cut out tomorrow as well as he's playing. But he was just unlucky basically. But I can't see any give-up in him, to be honest with you. And he managed his game so beautifully today. He took irons off a couple of tees where he didn't need to hit the driver. And he's in control, he really is."
Price and Watson will join Romero in the final threesome Sunday and Romero realizes there is little margin for error if he's to walk away with his second straight major win.
"Tomorrow it's a different day because the guy behind me is Nick," Romero said. "Complete difference of players. I'll probably use a different system for tomorrow. I think tomorrow is different, different players playing behind me. Nick is a tough guy -- one of the toughest guys in the world. I have to be very careful."
Watson has quietly snuck into contention and his 69 on Saturday was one of only four rounds in the 60s.
"Confidence is an interesting thing," said Watson, who had three wins on the PGA TOUR in 1984 and hasn't won since with several injuries keeping him away from the game. "It builds and then one day you walk out and you feel really good about what you're doing. I almost feel really good about what I'm doing. I'm starting to make a couple of putts here and there. The putter doesn't shake quite as much when I'm getting nervous."
Witht the wind, which had been brutal the first two days, letting up on Saturday -- it blew just 10-15 mph -- for the first time all week, the brutal par-3 17th did not play as the most difficult hole on the course. Instead, that honor went to No. 4, a 458-yard par 4 that played to an average of 4.385 -- Romero, Price and Watson all parred it.
Tom Kite recorded the low round of the tournament on Saturday with a 5-under-par 67, but it might have been too little, too late. He was 2-over par for the tournament and nine shots behind Romero.
"I guess that's the only good news for playing poorly the first two days, you get that early tee time where you can get out and have a chance to get the golf course," Kite said. "But we were just talking in the scoring tent, even when you catch the golf course under some very tame conditions, it's still a heck of a golf course. And you've got to play very well and if you miss it at all, you just get roasted. I feel very fortunate to get a good round in like that. It helped a bunch, for sure."
Defending champion Jay Haas was also nine shots behind after a disappointing 3-over-par 75 in the third round.
Romero said the pressure of winning will start long before he hits the first tee on Sunday.
"It starts tonight," he said. "I think I do it the same, you know. Just nothing change for tomorrow, just try to put it in the fairway. Don't see the scores. Don't see the players, just make birdies and go."