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Toshiba Classic Notebook:

El Gato remains close by

GOLF: Romero, from Argentina, is just one shot behind the leaders at eight-under, heading into today’s final round.

March 07, 2009|By David Carrillo Peñaloza

NEWPORT BEACH — For a moment at the Toshiba Classic, Eduardo Romero found himself in his native tongue’s favorite position: Numero uno.

The Argentine took a one-stroke lead over Bernhard Langer after a birdie on the No. 7 hole, one of five birdies he collected on Saturday. Romero, nicknamed “El Gato,” ran into some bad luck on back-to-back holes on the back nine, bogeying 16 and 17.

Romero, who was three-under for the day, birdied No. 18, leaving him one stroke back of leaders Mark O’Meara and Langer, the defending champ, heading into today’s final round.

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Unlike Romero, Langer finished strong at the end, with birdies on 15, 17 and 18. On Friday, the German birdied No. 12, eagled No. 15 and birdied 16 and 18.

“Hopefully I’ll have … some positive vibes [today] when I go in there,” said Langer, who along with O’Meara, met with the media afterward, while “El Gato” got away.

Romero, like Langer, won three times on the Champions Tour last year.

The trio will be in the same group in the final round today, when it tees off at 12:25 p.m., vying to capture the $255,000 winner’s check.

 O’Meara mentioned he used to drive a Volkswagen Rabbit as a teenager. The chase is on again.

The 52-year-old sped into contention to possibly win his first golf tournament since 2004 and first Champions Tour event.

O’Meara is tied for the lead after shooting a five-under-par 66 on the second day at Newport Beach Country Club.

O’Meara goes into the final round today tied at nine-under-par 133 with Langer, who was three-under on Saturday.

The key to the Mission Viejo player’s success can be linked to his health.

“I feel like I’m in better shape right now that I have been in awhile, physically. I want it,” said O’Meara, who eagled the No. 3 hole and birdied No. 11, 15 and 18.

“I’ve been using the gym, working out aerobically and lifting a little bit more. I’m not going psycho by any means. I’m a little more committed … in the gym a little more. Can I lose a few more pounds? Yeah.”

Losing weight is healthy. O’Meara just can’t afford to lose on the course he competed on while in high school, during his Rabbit-driving days.

 Another Toshiba Classic champ withdrew before he could try to win again here.

Tom Purtzer, who won the 2004 event, withdrew Saturday for personal reasons after the first round of the tournament. He shot two-over-par 71 Friday.

Jay Haas, the 2007 champ, also withdrew to watch his daughter get crowned.

Haas’ daughter was part of a high school girls’ basketball team claiming a South Carolina state title Saturday.


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