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Andres Romero showing a lot of drive at Riviera

He is second to Phil Mickelson and second in driving distance.

February 22, 2009|James Wagner

He can't speak a lick of English. Actually, he doesn't even try, he admits.

But Andres Romero has people talking.

After three rounds at the Northern Trust Open, the 27-year old Argentine sits second on a leaderboard of golfers, some of whom are old enough to be his father.

For some, Romero's success is perhaps logical.

In the 2007 British Open, on arguably the toughest links course in the world, Carnoustie, Romero made 10 birdies in the final round and finished third, one stroke behind the winner, Padraig Harrington.

"I played like I never had before," Romero recalled.

In 2008, Romero was the PGA Tour's rookie of the year. He made 15 cuts in 20 events and took his first tour title at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. He tied for eighth at the Masters and tied for seventh at the PGA Championship.

As he exited the 18th hole Saturday at Riviera after making birdies on the last three holes for a 65, there was a smattering of cheers in Spanish -- more than the previous days. One woman shouted a hurray for Argentina.

Romero has the second-longest driving distance average in the tournament, 307.4 yards. But how does a man generously listed at 5 feet 10 and 165 pounds hit the ball so far?

"Even I don't know," Romero said.

Entering today, Romero has been slightly more consistent than Phil Mickelson, who leads him by four strokes. Romero has managed to stay under par in all three rounds, while Mickelson has sandwiched a 63 and 62 around Friday's one-over 72.

If Romero keeps up at this pace, his interpreter will have to work overtime today. Is a surprising win in order?

"Ojala," said Marcos Virasoro, Romero's interpreter.

Loosely translated: "I hope so."

Familiar surroundings

After his third round Saturday, Fred Couples has played 100 rounds at the PGA Tour event at Riviera. Overall, it's his 26th event there, including victories in 1990 and 1992.

"I think I can play Riviera blindfolded," said Couples, 49, who shot a 65 in the third round for an 11-under total, five off the lead.

Quote of the day

Mark Calcavecchia, 48, who won the Nissan Los Angeles Open at Riviera in 1989, had this to say about Los Angeles traffic:

It "takes an hour to go two miles. I don't get it. I'd have to have a helicopter if I lived out here, like the Jetsons or something. We need something to just get like 20 feet off the ground."

--

james.wagner@latimes.com

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