Eduardo Romero Didn't Credit His Swing, His Strategy Or 2008 Championship Annual: The Year In Review
Even A Few Good Breaks For Winning The U.S. Senior Open.
He Put It Down To Yoga.
By Richard Mudry
Eduardo Romero began the discipline of yoga as a means to find peace on the golf course. He always had been the nervous type and it ate away at his game. "Always it was his weakness," said Vicente Fernandez of his fellow Argentine. "Mental mistakes always held Eduardo back."
Not any more, thanks to Romero's practice of "Rhami Hayat," an Indian form of yoga that is designed to improve one's focus and concentration. "It's a mental yoga," Romero explained after traveling to The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., to win the 29th U.S. Senior Open. "Before I lost concentration so quick, like this" — and he snaps his fingers to emphasize his point. "But it has helped me in life, not just in golf."
It clearly helped on The Broadmoor's East Course. With his breathing steady and his heart rate on an even keel, Romero won by being aggressive off the tee when necessary and conservative when prudent over the difficult, daunting 7,254-yard, par-70 course.
He was smooth throughout. "There's not one guy you can think of from South America," said two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, "who doesn't have a beautiful, free swing. They just flat wind up and hit it. It's nice to see guys like that succeed."
|Eduardo Romero acknowledges the gallery as he stands on the 18th green, shortly before being crowned the champion. (John Mummert/USGA) |
In addition to his state of mind, Romero won because of a humongous driving average — 324.5 yards per measured drive, second best for the week (of course, it didn't hurt that he was playing at an altitude of 6,300 feet). That allowed him to play a lot of medium or short irons into 10 par 4s that ranged from 426 yards to a whopping 545 yards. The champion was six under par on those holes.
The Argentine also won because he judged his approach shots better than anyone, finishing first in greens in regulation, and because of a putter that also had been his downfall in the past yielded only two three-putts on putting surfaces that many called the most difficult they'd ever encountered.
For the record, Romero made 17 birdies and 11 bogeys to finish six under par despite blistering temperatures in the mid-to-upper 90s. His rounds of 67-69-65-73 — for a total of 274 — was four strokes better than that of Fred Funk, who essentially lost his chance to win when he triple-bogeyed the par-4 13th hole in the final round. After missing the fairway off the tee, Funk couldn't advance from a difficult lie next to a tree. He then came up short of the green with his third shot.
"That was it," said Funk. "If I had just made a bogey there, I'm OK. I was trying to force an issue a little too much, I guess, with that lie. I just hit a couple of loose shots. That was all she wrote."
Finishing a stroke behind Funk was Zimbabwean Mark McNulty, the only player in the field to not have a three-putt green, while Greg Norman came next, six strokes off the pace at even par.
Romero's victory — in only his second Senior Open — made him the second Argentine to have won the Francis Ouimet Trophy, joining Roberto De Vicenzo, who won the first U.S. Senior Open, in 1980. He was quick to put the victory in perspective. "I've won nine tournaments in Europe and 85 in South America," Romero said afterward, "but this, of course, is the most important."
One could have been forgiven for predicting that Romero would come through, given his recent record. His opening 67, two behind Funk's lead, marked the 13th time in his last 14 rounds he'd recorded scores of par or better. Romero also had won the Dick's Sporting Goods Open in July and finished third at the Senior British Open the week before he won at The Broadmoor.
Funk, a native of Maryland (he was once coach of the University of Maryland's golf team), was coming off knee surgery carried out two months earlier. But an eagle, four birdies and a lone bogey gave him the opening-round lead of 65. John Cook was a stroke behind him.
"I think this is the kind of golf course that if you're playing well, it rewards you," said Funk, who now makes his home in Ponte Vedra, Fla. "It's kind of like Augusta National. You position your tee shots to set up your irons."
Both Funk and Romero shot a 69 in the second round, on a tough day made slightly tougher by the halting of play due to a black bear that wandered across the course (a red fox and mule deer were also championship guests).
As for the players themselves, there were only five sub-par scores, and the 36-hole cut was at 8-over-par 148. "The golf course played hard, holy smokes," said former U.S. Open champion Tom Kite after a 71 left him tied for third with McNulty.
Romero seized the lead after the par-3 12th hole of the third round when Funk bogeyed the hole. By day's end his third-round score of 65 had given him a two-stroke lead over Funk and a three-stroke lead over Cook. Conditions were difficult again. "The wind blew from every direction I could think of," said Cook of his sparkling 66 (which still lost ground to Romero).
Things didn't get any easier on Sunday, as only one player in the top five shot under par — McNulty, with a 68. He'd begun the final round at one over and went out in 4-under 32 — still six strokes behind Romero but realistically in contention in that the second nine at The Broadmoor had been causing problems for the field all week.
But McNulty found the final nine as confounding as everyone. Of the players who finished in the top 10, only David Edwards and Scott Hoch managed to play the second nine under par (each scored a 1-under-par 33). "The back nine seemed to have caught me every single day, but that's the golf course," McNulty said. "It's 18 holes of championship play, and you just have to take one hole at a time and make par. If you get a birdie, it's a bonus."
Cook, for his part, stumbled early. Playing in the penultimate group, he bogeyed the first hole, and from there on continued to slide down the leader board — shooting a 77 to finish fifth.
"I really didn't do a whole lot right," said Cook, who lost the Senior British Open in a playoff just weeks earlier. "I was a tired guy out there today."
|Fred Funk may look a little freaked, but he had a grand championship, finishing runner-up. (John Mummert/USGA)|
Romero had his problems, too. He would bogey four consecutive holes on the second nine. "I was thinking about it," he explained afterward. "I said, 'Bogey, bogey, bogey' — and then I bogeyed again! Wow! I said to my caddie, 'I have to make a putt, just one putt.'
"And then on 15 I hit a good drive and a good second shot and hit a good putt, and made par, and then I started to relax."
Romero became just the fifth foreign-born player to win this major and the first since Australian Graham Marsh won it in 1997. Romero also noted that Argentines have had spectacular success in recent USGA events. "Angel Cabrera won the U.S. Open [in 2007] and then I won this one," he said. "It's fantastic."
It also was lucrative, as Romero collected, in addition to his trophy, a check for $470,000.
Which should cover the cost of a few more yoga lessons.
Richard Mudry is a golf writer based in Tampa, Fla.Dottie And The Bear
During the second round of the U.S. Senior Open a black bear wandered onto the golf course from the forested slopes surrounding The Broadmoor Resort. In its path was Dottie Pepper, the former LPGA player, who was working as an on-course reporter for ESPN/NBC. Here she gives us the bear facts:
"Well, we were at the top of a commercial break when this all happened, and so our audio was still on. After hearing the last couple of segments about a bear being on the golf course, I said to the guys in our truck, 'Where's the bear?' And they said, 'Oh, he's over on 12 — don't worry.' But I was on 13. Pretty close by.
"All of a sudden I heard this rumbling — and there it was!
"It was going a lot faster than anyone thought it was. I had no idea how fast bears are. My first thought was to get out of there. I dropped my yardage book and ran five or six steps and then thought, 'Oh, my God, I don't know if I'm supposed to do this or not. So I just stopped. I just turned my back to it.
"My heart was pounding. Afterward, Tom Watson gave me a look that said, 'You're crazy — you totally overreacted.' I told him, 'The bear wasn't coming straight at you!'
"The audio was hilarious. I was laughing and saying over and over, 'Oh my God! Oh my God — you guys, there's this bear…!!!' They still have fun playing it. They even turned it into one of those 'Greatest Moments' segments. It also led off 'SportsCenter' that night, because ESPN had the video feed running during the break (you can also view footage of it at www.usga.org).
"I was OK soon afterward, but then [USGA staff photographer] John Mummert said, 'Check this out, I got it all on camera.' He showed me, and that's when I realized that it could have been really bad — what a mess it could have been.
"But I think the bear was really looking for a way out, because it had come across the fairway, and there were lots of bodies lining the ropes. It had nowhere to go. They eventually found it sleeping in a culvert above the ninth hole.
"I found out later that a drought this summer had reduced the amount of food high up in the mountains, and the bears in the area had smelled the food at the concession stands.
They were ransacked just about every night.
"Burgers smell good to a bear, I guess."These articles first appeared in the 2008 Championship Annual, a special publication mailed to USGA Members in November.