Argentina’s Eduardo Romero made an immediate impact in his first tournament in the senior game when he took a share of the opening round lead in the Senior British Open Championship presented by MasterCard.
Just five days after turning 50 the Argentinean fired a three under par 69 over the Dunluce Course at Royal Portrush Golf Club along with Englishman Jim Rhodes, Scotland’s John Chillas and Don Pooley from the United States.
England’s Carl Mason, who lost the title in a play-off last year against American Tom Watson, returned a 70 along with compatriot Ian Mosey. Watson fired a 75 in the €1.47 million (£1 million) event which is joint sanctioned by the European Seniors Tour and the US Champions Tour.
Romero’s performance came as no surprise as he entered the tournament as favourite after enjoying a solid season on The European Tour, highlighted by a second place finish in The Daily Telegraph Damovo British Masters.
“I am very happy. It’s my first tournament and I can see my old friends that I have known for a long time. I played with Ben Crenshaw, who is my hero,” said Romero, known as ‘El Gato’ - the cat - because of the way he stalks opponents.
The Argentinean, playing Royal Portrush for the first time this week, made five birdies and two bogies.
“I have never been here before but Darren Clarke and Paul McGinley told me it was the best course in Northern Ireland. When I see the golf course and play it I see that it is fantastic. It’s very, very nice,” added Romero.
Stepping onto the Seniors Tour felt a little strange for Romero and he admitted to feeling nervous for the first few holes but he quickly got into his stride.
He added: “You know everything is new for me. The locker room, the guys. When I walk on the course I like to see Tiger Woods for example but I don’t see that. I see different guys but I really enjoyed it. I am very happy to be here.”
Mason, who has won six times on the Seniors Tour since turning 50 mid way through last year, put aside back problems of the past month to make a good start to the event he came so close to claiming last year. Watson beat him on the second play-off at The Westin Turnberry Resort after Mason had unfortunately double bogeyed the 72nd hole to send the tournament into extra time.
Said Mason: “It brought back happy memories. My game has not been good in the last few weeks, I have had back problems and I have had to miss some tournaments but I have had a couple of wins so it is in there somewhere. I had a little tip from my good friend, Derrick Cooper, yesterday and that has put me back on track. I think because of my back I was protecting it a little bit and swinging it a little bit too much with my arms and not getting enough turn but he sorted me out.”
Watson, who eagled the second, struggled from the tee and has some work to do to successfully defend his title.
“I drove it poorly three or four times today and it cost me. I deserved what I shot. I did hit a lot of good shots but I didn’t drive it well on the back nine. I had started the day hitting the ball pretty well. 75 is not all that bad today. If three or four of those drives were better, it might have been a different story,” said the American.
Former Ryder Cup captains Mark James from England and Scotland’s Sam Torrance both carded 72.
“I was a little bit creaky over the past couple of days in practice but it was better today. Hit quite a few good shots but still a couple of very poor ones so I need to get rid of them. There was a bit of all sorts in there. I hit a few good drives but other places it was here and there, overall it was nearly alright,” said James, who won the Ford Senior Players Championship two weeks ago on the US Champions Tour.
During an exciting opening round two players made hole is ones and won a huge amount of Hardys wine. Australian Graham Marsh aced the 170 yard par three 11th while Rhodes made a hole in one on the sixth, which measures 189 yards.
Hardys are the official wine sponsor on the European Seniors Tour and reward players who make a hole in one with a total number of bottles of wines that is equivalent to the length of the hole. The Australian wine company therefore generously handed out 359 bottles of their finest wine to the two players.