5 Things: Putting helps Romero to Puerto Rico lead
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – The theme at the halfway point of the PGA Tour’s Puerto Rico Open has been go low or go home. On Friday, the field took advantage of mild conditions that led to a tournament 36-hole scoring mark and included a tournament-best 63.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from the second round at Trump International Puerto Rico:
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ROMERO PUTTING LIGHTS OUT: Andres Romero went back to an old putter, and the results so far have been spectacular. Romero shot a second straight 7-under 65 for a two-day total of 130 and a two-stroke lead.
Romero has struggled so far this season. He has made only one cut in five starts, and that was a T-71 at the Northern Trust Open. He switched back to a center-shafted TaylorMade Rossa Spider putter last week at the Honda Classic, and credited it for his improved form this week.
“Every time I stand over a putt, I feel good about it,” he said. “I never think about two-putting.”
Romero rebounded from a double bogey at the par-3 eighth hole with six birdies on the back nine. It helped him set a 36-hole tournament scoring record, and put him on track to earn his first victory since the 2008 Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
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WHAT CAN BROWN DO FOR YOU? Scott Brown carded a 9-under 63, his career-low round on the Tour, and earned his first spot in the final group of the day at a Tour event.
“It’ll be a new experience,” he said.
Brown was 5 under in a span of four holes, from Nos. 7 to 10. The stretch began in dramatic fashion when he holed a 7-iron from the fairway from 170 yards for an eagle-2. He rolled in a 50-foot birdie putt at the par-3 eighth and then stiffed his approach at the ninth. Brown cashed in with birdies on all four of the par 5s. His 63 also stands as the tournament’s lowest round so far.
Brown entered this week on a hot streak, with back-to-back top-10 finishes on the Web.com Tour. He finished third at the Panama Ciaro Championship and T-7 at the Colombia Championship. Brown also said he had good memories of the Trump International course. He finished T-5 here last year.
“I grew up in the Southeast, in Augusta, Ga., so I guess Bermudagrass is kind of home to me,” he said.
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EX-PAT IS BACK: Since turning pro in late 2011, former U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein has taken the road less traveled.
With no status at home, Uihlein elected to earn the equivalent of a post-graduate degree in international golf travel. He has stamped his passport in 18 countries (including the U.S.) while competing on the European Tour and Challenge Tour. Last week, he finished fourth at the Tshwane Open in South Africa.
Competing here on a sponsor exemption, Uihlein is making his first Tour start this season. He shot a bogey-free 7-under 65 and trails the leader by two shots.
No American player in the past 25 years has had any sustained success on the European Tour, but for Uihlein it has helped him mature as a player and a person.
“It’s all about experience,” he said, “just kind of building and trying to improve.”
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STEADY GOLF: Argentina’s Fabian Gomez smiled as he told the story of buying champagne to celebrate regaining his PGA Tour status at Q-School last fall for his caddie, manager and friends. He said he is more confident in his game than he was during his rookie campaign, in 2011.
It showed as Gomez shot up the leader board with a bogey-free 8-under 64. Gomez, who learned the game as a caddie and grew up two blocks from former Tour winner Jose Coceres, said he has been making great strides with his swing coach, Mariano Bartolome. He was encouraged by an opening round of 66 at the Honda Classic last week, but fell back after finding the water too many times at PGA National's vaunted "Bear Trap."
This week, he has played “steady golf,” and credited his career low round on Tour to his pin-seeking approach shots. He said the longest putt he made was 18 feet.
The key to success this weekend, he said, is quite simple: keep making birdies.
“It’s a course where you can go low,” Gomez said. “If it gets windy, that’ll be better. It will play a little more difficult. If there’s no wind, you will need many birdies to win.”
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SHORT SHOTS: In addition to Romero and Gomez, Angel Cabrera is T-7. This is the first time three Argentines have been in the top 10 of a Tour event. Cabrera’s son, Angel Cabrera Jr., missed the cut in his PGA Tour debut. He said he planned to stick around this weekend and “watch his father win.” . . . A large and vocal crowd supporting amateur Jorge Garcia of Venezuela had plenty to cheer about. The high school sophomore shot a 2-under 70 for the second straight day to make the cut, in a tie for 53rd. He became the eighth youngest player to make a cut on Tour, at 17 years, 1 month, 5 days. Garcia earned a spot in the field for winning the American Junior Golf Association’s Puerto Rico Open in January. . . . Defending champion George McNeill shot a 64 and is T-6, along with Monday qualifier Jon Curran, Tour rookie Morgan Hoffmann and 19-year-old American Jordan Spieth. . . . The cut came at 3-under 141 with 77 players advancing to the weekend, setting a new low cut at the Puerto Rico Open.