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Romero is focused on another victory

March 09, 2009|James Wagner

Continuing an unusual feline dominance of golf, an Argentine nicknamed "El Gato" ("The Cat") claimed another victim on another continent, this time, the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach.

And the man, formally known as Eduardo Romero, didn't do it by pouncing on his opponents as his moniker would suggest but by tempering his wandering mind.

Romero, who admits his failing ability to concentrate can doom him on the golf course, fired another 68 Sunday to finish 11-under par and claim his first Champions Tour event of the year at the Newport Beach Country Club.

"It's just my personality," said Romero, who had rounds of 66, 68 and 68 to win.

As he walked down the 18th fairway, the leader just couldn't keep his head down.

He grinned with every shout from the crowds.

Tipped his cap at every grandstand.

Waved at an unusually boisterous man shouting "Vamos!" ("Let's go!") in accented Spanish.

Romero, winner of numerous titles on the European and South American tours, won Sunday by succeeding at one of the most arduous of golfing tasks: putting.

His driving, arguably the best on the tour, was as sharp as expected. But on another day of fast greens that felled more golfers, the 54-year-old Romero and his chest-high putter triumphed.

At times this weekend, the putting was so difficult on the bouncy poa anna grass and hard to read that second-place finisher Joey Sindelar quipped, "I could have sworn the hole was moving."

Sindelar surged into contention with an eight-under 63 Sunday and finished with a 10-under 203.

And after finishing tied for second, Mark O'Meara sounded like every other golfer coming off the course grappling with their loss.

"I drove the ball on every fairway and hit a lot of quality shots," said O'Meara, whose third-round 70 cost him a higher finish.

"I just didn't make the putts."

Bernhard Langer, last year's winner who started Sunday in the top pairing, finished tied for ninth thanks to a two-over 73 -- and of course, some short putting misses.

Romero says his grandmother called him "El Gato" because as a little boy, Romero just couldn't stop climbing trees.

The media guide, however, offers a different story. It claims Romero's moniker arose because of the way Romero "stealthy stalks and overcomes opponents."

These last few days, that explanation wasn't really fitting. Romero was no lower than third place since the first round.

He jumped into a share of the lead by the second hole Sunday, but hiccuped through the day's middle stretch, dropping to eight-under with a bogey on the ninth hole.

To start the traditionally easier back nine, Romero's caddy, fellow Argentine Alejandro Molina, gave Romero the nudging he needed.

"He said, 'We have to wake up,' " recalled Romero, who returned to a mental yoga method called Rhami Hayat this year to help him focus. " 'We can win the tournament, but not like this.' "

Romero rattled off three straight birdies, dropping his score to 11-under and eventually picking up the $255,000 first-place check.

Despite uncorking more bogies (three) than the previous two days, Romero dropped many of his later second shots within a few feet of the pin, making his short putts practically gimmes.

But ask Romero about that last bogey, when he three-putted on 18, and he'll admit it doesn't really count.

"I just wanted to finish."


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