Eduardo Romero of Argentina wore a smile as wide as the Ailsa Craig after firing a blistering seven under par 63 to tie American Loren Roberts for the lead at The Senior British Open Championship, presented by Aberdeen Asset Management.
The easy-going South American, playing with defending champion Tom Watson, married his usual display of big hitting with a hot putter and came home in just 30 shots, despite bogeying the 13th at The Westin Turnberry Resort.
A simple three foot putt at the last took him to ten under par 130 and a share of the lead with Roberts, who had earlier produced his second consecutive bogey-free 65.
In doing so Romero also broke the American stranglehold at the top of the leaderboard, raising the blue and white between the Stars and Stripes that fluttered alongside eight of the top nine names.
Former Masters Champion Craig Stadler, fourth in last year’s event at Royal Aberdeen, is third after adding a 66 to his opening 65 to lay one stroke behind the leaders, while David Edwards and Gil Morgan both carded 65s to take fourth and fifth place on 132 and 133 respectively.
Tim Simpson finished late in the day with a 67 to join Morgan on seven under, two ahead of Fuzzy Zoeller (65), Peter Jacobsen (70) and Mike Reid (67).
Romero, who suffered the disappointment of finishing a shot behind winner Pete Oakley at The 2004 Senior British Open Championship, announced it was his “dream” to be crowned champion at Turnberry on Sunday.
In a bid to make that dream a reality, the Argentine revealed that he taken a break from his usual yoga regimen in order to focus all his concentration into improving his putting.
He said: “I have been doing yoga now for five years but I have decided to take a break this year to rest. Now I can just focus on the putter because my big problem has always been my putter. For me, the putter was a terrible club. It was: not now. I felt very, very strong today.”
That strength manifested itself in a huge drive at the 497 yard 17th hole which left Romero with a sand wedge in. “I think that was the longest drive I have ever hit – it was 379 yards. Unbelievable! I had 110 yards to the hole and hit a sand wedge to four feet and made the putt for eagle.”
Roberts may not have the length of Romero – few do on the seniors circuit – but the “Boss of the Moss” still rules on the greens and another excellent putting display saw him cover the first ten holes in five under par before parring his way home for another round of 65.
The Californian’s only poor shot came at the 17th and although it did no damage to his scorecard, it did leave a female spectator nursing a sore head.
“The ball was sitting below my feet on the left side of the fairway and I tried to cut a three iron but double-crossed it. It came out clear across the fairway and hit the lady who had been scoring for me the day before. I felt very bad but thankfully the medical people checked and said she was alright,” explained Roberts.
Back down the field the cut came at four over par 144, which meant that 78 players will go into the weekend. Among the notable absentees will be Scotland’s Sam Torrance, who finished on eight over, but his playing partner and defending champion Watson made it after a round of three under par 67 left him at level par.
Despite missing Torrance, the European Seniors Tour will have strong representation over the final two days with Romero, winner of last year’s Wentworth Senior Masters, supported by, among others, the Aberdeen Asset Management-sponsored Mark McNulty in tenth place; the trio of Australian Stewart Ginn, England’s Mark James and Ireland’s Des Smyth in 14th; and Bob Cameron of England and Eamonn Darcy of Ireland among the group in 17th place.
Also playing at the weekend are three current or former European Seniors Tour referees: Derrick Cooper and double Order of Merit winner Carl Mason, who are both at one over, and Gordon J Brand, who is at three over.