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Toshiba Classic:

Romero numero uno

GOLF: Argentinian sinks three birdies to start the back nine and edges runners-up O’Meara, Sindelar by one stroke.

March 09, 2009|By Steve Virgen

NEWPORT BEACH — After a bogey on No. 9 at Newport Beach Country Club, Eduardo Romero told his caddie, “We have to wake up. We can win this tournament, but not like this.”

That statement made sense. After all, the Argentinian is nicknamed, “El Gato,” and the cat is known to have nine lives. Romero responded in a big way after the ninth hole, sinking three straight birdies.

Now you can call him El Campeon, which means The Champion.

Romero won the 15th annual Toshiba Classic Sunday, when his three-under-par 68 final round gave him an 11-under-202 finish for a one-stroke victory ahead of Mark O’Meara and Joey Sindelar.

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It was Romero’s 100th professional victory, and it brought him $255,000.

Bernhard Langer, the defending champion who shared the lead with O’Meara heading into the final round, finished tied for ninth after shooting two-over.

Langer, O’Meara, as well as several other golfers, found putting difficult at Newport Beach Country Club, but Romero drew the advantage with his short game, especially on the back nine.

Of his 17 birdies during the tournament, nine came on the back nine. The bogey on No. 9 was one of seven for Romero for the weekend.

“I think I won the tournament on the back nine,” said Romero, who mentioned that his grandmother gave him the nickname El Gato because he used to climb trees like a cat during his childhood. “It’s tough [on the others] with three birdies in a row.

“I played very solid all week long.”

There’s another reason why Romero is called El Gato. It’s because of the way he stalks and overcomes opponents. Playing in the leaders group today, he definitely overcame Langer and O’Meara and flipped the script on what would’ve been intriguing story lines.

O’Meara, a Mission Viejo native who played high school matches here, was seeking his first win on the Champions Tour. Langer had been vying to become the Toshiba’s first repeat winner.

Instead, El Gato said adios to those possibilities and produced a great story of his own.

He grabbed his fourth win in his last 10 starts, his fifth win on the Champions Tour since joining players age 50 and older on the tour in 2006.

El Gato became the fourth international golfer to win the Toshiba with Langer of Germany (2008), Rodger Davis of Australia (2003), and Jose Maria Canizares of Spain (2001) being the others.

Romero’s three birdies on 10, 11 and 12 gave him momentum, yet after that, he was just wanting to par each of the final six holes. He birdied No. 15 and had par on the others, except for 18, where he bogeyed.

“Stupid bogey,” said Romero, who speaks with a thick Spanish accent. “But I just wanted to finish.”

Now, Romero just wants to keep going and build off his Toshiba win. There has been great success for the past two champions here. Langer and Jay Haas went on to become the Champions Tour Player of the Year in their respective years.

“To win a tournament this early in the season, it’s very good on my mind,” Romero said.

Sindelar should feel rather confident himself. His eight-under 63 was tied for the low in the final round with Joe Ozaki.

?Attendance was 79,212 throughout the week.

?Romero tied for ninth at the 2007 Toshiba Classic and tied for 39th in 2008.

?John Cook, a part-time Corona del Mar resident, finished tied for 15th, at five-under 208.


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