|EDUARDO ROMERO WINS TOSHIBA CLASSIC AT NEWPORT BEACH CC|
EDUARDO ROMERO SEIZES CONTROL ON BACK NINE TO WIN TOSHIBA CLASSIC AT NEWPORT BEACH CC
Tournament Presents $850,000 Check to Hoag Hospital
NEWPORT BEACH, Calif., March 8, 2009 - Eduardo Romero proudly carries the nickname "El Gato," or "The Cat," a nickname generated by the way he stealthily tracks down and overcomes opponents on the golf course. And Sunday afternoon at Newport Beach Country Club provided the perfect template for Romero's latest cat-burglar routine.
With defending Toshiba Classic champion Bernhard Langer and Orange County native and crowd favorite Mark O'Meara stealing attention in the final group from Romero, the native of Cordoba, Argentina made off with the 2009 Toshiba Classic Sunday.
"I'm talking to my caddie after the ninth hole and say, We have to wake up. We can win the tournament, but not like this,' " Romero said.
So Romero woke up with a flourish, rolling in three birdies in his first three holes on the back nine and four in the first six holes. His 10th-hole wake-up call took the tournament away from the machine-like Langer (the current Charles Schwab Cup points leader and reigning Champions Tour Player of the Year) and sentimental favorite O'Meara, who was playing some of the best golf in his Champions Tour career.
Behind a final-round 3-under-par 68 that brought him home at 11-under 202, Romero's fourth victory in his last 10 Champions Tour starts and fifth overall earned the Argentine $255,000, a Toshiba laptop computer and 255 Charles Schwab Cup points. The Toshiba Classic also doubled as Romero's 100th professional victory worldwide.
Romero's nickname originated with his grandmother, who gave him the name because of his penchant for climbing to the top of trees. It took on another meaning when Romero started playing golf professionally and stealing tournaments out from under his opponents before they knew what happened.
This year's Toshiba Classic fit that template perfectly. Romero began Sunday's final round one shot behind Langer and O'Meara, who promised to create a memorable final round at a tournament well-versed with incredible Sunday finishes.
The incredible finish belonged to Romero, who opened the back nine with four consecutive 3s' on his card: three birdies and a par. He added a birdie on No. 15, before bogeying 18.
By then, Langer was reduced to a mere spectator. He uncharacteristically faltered coming out of the gate, bogeying the first two holes before righting the ship with a birdie on No. 3. O'Meara, meanwhile, opened with three consecutive pars.
This cracked the door for Romero, who opened with two consecutive birdies to take the lead. He calmly watched as O'Meara jockeyed back into position with a birdie on No. 4, but the Mission Viejo native could never find the rhythm he carried over the first two rounds.
O'Meara came home with a 1-under 70 and tied for second at 10-under 203 with Joey Sindelar, who carded the best round of the tournament with a final-round 8-under 63. That score brought Sindelar from a T24 to T2.
"Any time you start getting below 4 under or 5 under you're going pick up ground," Sindelar said. "I was starting better than the middle of the pack, so 8 under I would have expected top 10 for sure, and probably around fifth. Some guys made putts yesterday they won't today. But I can tell you that for me to have this kind of round if early March, I'm thrilled to death."
Tim Simpson, David Eger, Fred Funk, Denis Watson and Tom Jenkins all tied for fourth at 8-under 205. Langer's 2-over 73, his first over-par round at Newport Beach Country Club, dropped him into a tie for ninth with Jeff Sluman and Bobby Wadkins.
Those were some of the golfing highlights to a week in which the Toshiba Classic - recognized as the standard for charitable contributions on the Champions Tour - raised $850,000 for charity.
The Toshiba Classic