CARY, N.C. (AP) — Argentina’s Eduardo Romero won the SAS Championship on Sunday for his third Champions Tour victory in five starts, closing with a 6-under 66 for a three-stroke victory over Tom Kite.
Romero, also the Dick’s Sporting Goods Open winner in July and U.S. Senior Open champion in August, is the tour’s lone three-time winner this year.
He had a 15-under 201 total on the Prestonwood Country Club course and earned $315,000 to jump from eighth to third on the money list with $1,501,799.
Kite finished with a 69.
Andy Bean and Gil Morgan shot 67s to tie for third at 11 under. Second-round leader Bruce Fleisher (72) and Jim Thorpe (67) finished at 10 under.
After taking over the lead from second-round leader Bruce Fleisher on the first hole Sunday, the 54-year-old Romero never relinquished his hold on the top spot again.
“This is the best week for my driver, but the real key is still the putter,” Romero said. “I’m putting so well, and the putter is giving me a lot of confidence.”
Kite, the Boeing Classic winner in August, also finished second two weeks ago in the Greater Hickory Classic at Rock Barn.
“Eddie played awesome,” Kite said. “He birdied the first hole and never really looked back. I played a so-so round. I just wasn’t striking it quite as consistently. My swing just wasn’t quite there.”
Romero, who consistently outdrove his opponents Sunday, is second on the Champions Tour in driving distance with a 295-yard average. The tour average is 272.
“He’s long, but he’s not so ridiculously long that I can’t get it out there with him,” Kite said. “I just didn’t hit my irons nearly as close as I needed to.”
Kite had a chance to close the gap significantly on Romero on the 434-yard, par-4 13. He was on the green in three, but missed a 16-foot putt for birdie. Romero missed the green with his second shot and bogeyed the hole.
After that, Romero said, he had visions of his near debacle in the U.S. Senior Open, in which he bogeyed four consecutive holes down the stretch. He held on to win the tournament by four strokes.
“I was feeling very nervous on 14,” Romero said. “I know Tom Kite is behind me, and I was only up two after 13.”
But a 15 1/2-foot birdie putt on No. 15 pushed the lead back to three.
“I breathed after 15,” Romero said. I said, ‘This tournament is for me.”‘
With Sunday’s win, Romero moved closer to the top spot in the race for the Charles Schwab Cup. He remains in fourth, but moved within 312 points of leader Jay Haas, who maintained his overall lead after tying for 17th place at the SAS Championship.
Bernhard Langer remained in second, 139 points behind. Fred Funk stayed in third place, but moved closer to the Haas, after tying for 10th this week and picking up 47 points to move to within 222 of the leader.
The next Champions Tour event – the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship in two weeks at Baltimore – will give top-10 finishers double points. The Schwab Cup winner takes home $1 million.