The Argentine golfer Andres Romero is aiming to put the disappointment of missing out on last year's British Open title behind him.
Romero can do a Cabrera
LOCH LOMOND // They are two holes that he has probably played innumerable times in his head. The 17th and 18th, or the 'Island' and 'Home' as they are better known at Carnoustie in the northern reaches of Scotland, are holes that will probably live with the dashing Andres Romero long after he has ceased whacking a golf ball around for a living.
The 136th staging of the event ended with Padraig Harringon clutching the Claret Jug after overcoming his European Ryder Cup colleague Sergio Garcia in a four-hole play-off last year, but it would not have reached such a stage if Romero had steadied himself. The Argentina golfer, known as 'Pigu', was draining putts as if he was attempting to throw marbles into the sea on a giddy Sunday afternoon last July.
Romero was leading by two strokes on nine under with two holes remaining after potting an outrageous 10 birdies. He had seemingly left the field in his slipstream, but seemed to encounter some sort of mental seizure. He went out of bounds on the 17th hole to suffer a double bogey before a closing bogey on the 18th saw him finish with a 67, and miss out on the play-off by one stroke. Was he too bold? Did he get too nervous? Should he be arriving in Royal Birkdale this morning as the defending Open champion? Those are just a smattering of the questions one imagines Romero has, in his quieter moments, asked himself when he recalls last year's happenings at the Open championship.
As we spoke after he finished his week at the Scottish Open on level par yesterday, it is clear that this cheerful character is over the mental scars of last year. He was probably over them a long time before now after he contrived to win his first tour event at the Deutsche Bank Players' Championship of Europe less than a week after his shenanigans at Carnoustie. But does his imminent return to the Open bring back memories of what might have been a year ago?
"Yes, of course, I think back," he admits. "Obviously, it was disappointing to miss out, but I was happy with how I played that week. It was a great experience for me, and I'm happy to be going back to play in such a great tournament this week. "I'm happy with how my game has been this week, tee to green, and I'm also satisfied with how my putting is on the greens. "I'm really looking forward to it after going so close last year. I'm a bit nervous too, but excited at the same time. We will just have to wait and see if I can play well."
The manicured fairways of Loch Lomond are some distance from Royal Birkdale, and so are the nature of both courses. The thought process of playing a links course rather than target golf are key elements in every Open. The elements can also be vindictive at the Open, and Romero appears to be aware that he will need luck on his side to go close again this week. "I very much like links golf, and I always feel that I play very well in the wind. I have not played at Birkdale yet, but I will be practicing with Angel Cabrera, so I'm looking forward to that," he admitted.
"I'm quite happy that Tiger is not there, as it will maybe give the rest of us a better chance this week. "But it depends on the weather, the wind and when it rains, and who has a lot of luck."
Romero has the game to claim the Open, of that there is no doubt. Yet one imagines it could get very sweaty if he finds himself clear of the field in the closing moments on Sunday night.
He will not want to be subjecting himself to similar questions in a year's time. @Email:email@example.com