KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Eduardo Romero’s not worried about how big a lead he might have had – only that he’s the one on top at the Senior PGA Championship.
Romero missed the chance to take a four-shot lead or more into the final round, bogeying his last two holes Saturday.
“It’s OK,” he said. “I’m still leading. I’ve got one more round to go.”
Romero was 9 under and four shots ahead after a birdie on the par-3 14th, but hit into a bunker on the 17th hole, leading to one bogey. Then he missed a 7-foot par putt on the 18th hole to tighten up a tournament he appeared to have a lock on.
Still, the Argentine star was 7 under after his 71, two strokes better than Denis Watson (69) and Nick Price (70). Naomichi “Joe” Ozaki (72) was fourth at 4 under.
Romero’s miscues “let the three of us back in the tournament,” said Price, whose three major titles include two PGA trophies.
No one else was under par after three days at Pete Dye’s seaside layout.
Romero had played the best of anyone through two rounds of wind gusts as high as 31 mph – and urged the nearby Atlantic to do its worst because Romero grew up playing far breezier rounds in his native country.
Even though gusts slackened, Romero’s game did not until the end. He had gone 17 holes without a bogey before closing with two straight.
Even with Romero’s late mistakes, Price thinks chasing him down Sunday will be a chore.
“I don’t think he’s going to lay down. He’s playing so well,” said Price, who was part of Romero’s threesome.
Romero remains poised for a second straight major on the Champions Tour – he captured The Tradition in his rookie season last summer – and to become the first international player to take this tournament since Gary Player did it in 1990.
Romero’s not concerned about the pressure – he said he saw his face on the front page of an Argentine newspaper – of trying to close out the tournament.
He’ll approach the last round as he the first three.
“Nothing changes,” he said. “Don’t see the scores. Don’t see the players. Just make birdies and go (to the next hole).”
That worked to perfection for most of the third round.
He birdied the par-5 seventh for a third straight day and, after his ball skipped through a sand dune and landed in front of the 11th green, Romero lengthened his lead to two shots with a birdie there – also his third straight on that par 5.
Romero extended his lead to three with a birdie on the par-3 14th. When Romero found trouble in a sand dune alongside the 15th hole, he simply chipped up to 2 feet and saved par.
Romero, though, could escape problems down the stretch, missing similar putts on both closing holes.
Watson’s run was fueled by consecutive birdies on the 11th and 12th holes that got him two shots behind. But a bogey on No. 17 dropped him back. Watson is seeking his first tour victory since winning three PGA Tour titles in 1984.
Ozaki stayed close enough to Romero for most of the round. He fell back, though, when he drove into a dune left of the 15th fairway, could not hack his way out on his next shot and made double-bogey 6.
The Atlantic wind that blasted the course Thursday – and reminded some competitors of what they faced in the 1991 Ryder Cup matches here – were much calmer Saturday.
“Not that it laid down,” said Tom Kite, who shot the tournament’s best round with a 5-under 67. “I mean it always blows here, even when it doesn’t blow.”
Once again, officials shrunk the 17th, this time to 158 yards, its lowest total of the tournament and 39 yards under its scorecard listing.
Divots: Bruce Lietzke opened strongly with four birdies on his first seven holes for front-nine 32. However, he faded with four bogeys on the final nine to finish at even-par 72. … Club pro Bill Schumaker on his first-round 80 played amid 30 mph winds: “I’m from Indiana,” he said. “If we got wind like that we don’t even go outside, let alone play in it.”