Eduardo Romero credited his handling the winds Thursday to his upbringing in Argentina and his 22 years on the European Tour. (Photo: Getty Images)
Eduardo Romero credited his handling the winds Thursday to his upbringing in Argentina and his 22 years on the European Tour. (Photo: Getty Images)

Romero solves wind with 68 for Senior PGA lead

With stiff winds whipping across Kiawah Island, Eduardo Romero posted a 4-under 68 Thursday for the first-round lead at the 68th Senior PGA Championship. The Argentine made just one bogey to lead Japan's Joe Ozaki by one and Champions Tour rookie Chip Beck by two. Nick Price shot 71 in his Senior PGA Championship debut.

By T.J. Auclair, Interactive Producer

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. -- With conditions that included wind gusts up to 30-plus mph in the first round of the 68th Senior PGA Championship, Kiawah Island's Ocean Course wasn't conducive to low scores on Thursday.

Argentina's Eduardo Romero teed off early and posted the low score of the first round -- a near-flawless, 4-under-par 68. That was one better than Japan's Joe Ozaki and two clear of Chip Beck on a day where only seven players in the 156-man field managed to crack the par-72 Pete Dye seaside beast.

Nick Price and 2006 Senior PGA Championship runner-up Brad Bryant were among a foursome at 1 under, while defending champion Jay Haas opened up with an even-par 72.

The lone blemish on Romero's card was the bogey he took on the 18th hole, where he came up a club short with his approach and then failed to get up and down.

"I hit the driver in the fairway, good putting, good concentration, very solid," said Romero, who has one Champions Tour win and nine European Tour wins to his credit. "And it's very good for me to start like this. Because normally I'm just a bad starter in all the tournaments and then I get better and better, but it's tough to do. But 4 under is perfect."

Romero's most brilliant birdie of the day was the one he made on the 439-yard 10th hole. Proving that wind isn't always a bad thing on the Ocean Course, the stocky Argentine unleashed a 360-yard drive downwind, flipped a lob-wedge to 3 feet and made the putt.

"It was a big, huge driver on No. 10," he said.

Romero said the wind wasn't much of a factor for him -- not because it wasn't there, but because he played in a lot of it growing up in his home country and also spent 22 years on the European Tour.

With no majors on his resume, Romero would love to win his first this week.

"It's a dream," he said. "To win this PGA for me is, I think it's one of the more important things in my life to win a PGA in America, fantastic. I will try hard. I'm very concentrating [sic] this week, I'm trying my best, because it's very, very important for my career to win the PGA."

Ozaki, a 35-time winner in Japan, shot 3-under 33 on his front nine. He had four birdies on the outward nine to go along with one bogey, which came at No. 2 on a three-putt.

"The front nine there wasn't much wind," Ozaki said through his caddie/interpreter Allen Turner. "But the back nine the wind came and I was able to make some nice pars and make some good putts at the end."

The 178-yard par-3 17th hole was the most difficult on Thursday, playing nearly a full shot over par with 52 bogeys, 18 double bogeys and seven scores worse than double bogey. One of those was the quintuple-bogey 8 that belonged to Pine Mountain, Ga., PGA Master Professional John Godwin, who shot a 10-over 82.

On the other end of the spectrum, Beck -- making his major championship debut on the Champions Tour this week and a member of the 1991 U.S. Ryder Cup team that won on this very course -- made an incredible birdie on No. 17 to position himself for the opening 2-under 70. He ripped a 3-iron off the tee straight into the wind and it stopped 11 feet from the hole. He made the putt for one of just five birdies recorded at No. 17 all day.

"Like most major championships you have to commit to where you want that ball to land and your target line into the green," Beck said. "That's, to me, the essence of a major championship. I was able to do that."

Like Beck, Price is also making his debut in a Champions Tour major this week. A three-time major winner back in his heyday in the mid-90s on the PGA TOUR, Price was happy with his start.

"I figured when the wind started blowing hard today that anywhere around par was going to be a good score," Price said. "Even a couple over today. You haven't shot yourself out of the tournament with that or the championship with that score. It's just one of those courses where you just have to keep the ball in play. Otherwise you're going to shoot a big number."

Bryant came to Kiawah Island fresh off a win last Sunday at the Regions Charity Classic, which was a successful title defense. He fell to Haas in the Senior PGA Championship at Oak Tree Golf Club in a three-hole playoff last year. One of the late starters on Thursday, Bryant credited his score to the plan formulated and carried out by he and his caddie.

"We came up with a formula that is right on," Bryant said. "We have got it ... if the wind stays exactly the same as it is, we know what the wind's doing. And so that worked out today. Going into the wind we added a certain yardage and pulled a certain yardage off when we were going downwind. And we were dead on every time."

The key to Bryant's 71 was his driving. He hit an eye-popping 13 of 14 fairways en route to his seventh consecutive sub-par round in an opening round on the Champions Tour in 2007. 

"I just think that I'm fortunate today," he said. "I just went out today and I drove the ball just the best I've ever driven it. So it was kind of, from that standpoint it was actually pretty fun. It could be really a difficult day out there. But definitely my best driving round of the year."

Jeff Coston, winner of the 2006 Callaway Golf Senior PGA Professional National Championship, led the way for the club professionals on Thursday with his even-par 72.

"I had fun today," said Coston, who is playing in his first Senior PGA Championship. "I have a friend caddying for me whose been my friend for 20 years. It's nice hanging out at night."

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