RENO — Andres Romero switched putters in mid-May, and the move has paid big dividends.
Romero made five straight cuts after the switch and nearly $255,000 to put himself back in contention for a spot in the FedEx Cup playoffs.
The 32-year-old Argentinian, who has one win on his resume, is at the top of the leaderboard after carding nine birdies en route to a 14-point effort Friday afternoon at the 15th annual Reno-Tahoe Open at Montreux Golf & Country Club.
Romero has 22 points, one ahead of Gary Woodland, who missed a 5-footer on his last hole. Stuart Appleby (12-7), Charlie Wi (4-15) and Rod Pampling (2-17) are tied for third at 19. Brian Harman (5-13), Colt Knost (12-6) and Greg Chalmers (13-5) share sixth at 18. There is a four-way tie for ninth at 17 between David Mathis (10-7), David Toms (2-15), Bud Cauley (10-7) and Robert Streb (7-10).
The third round gets under way at 8 a.m. today.
“(My putting) is really good,” Romero said through a translator. “It gave me a lot of confidence, and I have played well the last five tournaments. I felt very well with my putter and my swinging, and also I started working with my psychologist, so I think I’m on the right path.
“I played in the pro-am and didn’t play well. After the pro-am I went to the practice range and I started to hit some balls. I found my swing and stance, and had a good feeling. I started to play well and then I made some mistakes (double-bogey on 2 and bogeys on 5). After that I started again and finished very well.”
Romero, who started on No. 10, birdied four of his first six holes, draining putts of 33, 4, 2 and 1 feet, respectively. It was iron play at its best. He gave three points back with a double-bogey on the difficult par-4 1st. After two straight pars, he birdied five of his next six holes with putts from 40, 28, 8, 9 and 6 feet, respectively.
“The course is beautiful, but the system is really good for me,” Romero said. “Last week I had 22 birdies and two eagles, and if you made all those birdies her and eagles, it’s very good for you. The most important thing this week is the (Modified Stableford) system.”
Woodland, who was tied for second when the day started, managed just seven points in what can only be considered pristine conditions. He carded five birdies and three bogeys. The normally long-hitting Woodland had a bogey and three pars on the par-5s.
“Today was a struggle,” Woodland said. “I didn’t hit good drives all day. That’s tough because par-5s I can hit irons into the hole, and I was hitting middle irons into them yesterday (Thursday). Today I was punching out and laying up, so it was frustrating from that standpoint. I did hit some good shots coming in, and got myself into the golf tournament and into good position for the weekend.”
Woodland, who started on No. 10, had only one point through the first 13 holes. He bogeyed both 1 and 2 in that stretch. After pars at Nos. 3 and 4, he drained birdie putts of 2, 1 and 11 feet.
“I’m in a better spot mentally right now,” Woodland said. “I’m very happy about where I’m at, and I’m excited about where my game is going.”
Woodland is looking for his first top-10 finish of the season and second PGA win of his career. A high finish could also solidify his playoff chances. He is 116th in the FedEx Cup standings.
Appleby, another No. 10 tee starter, started the day with 12 points. He birdied the par-5 13th and the par-5 18th. Other than that, he had trouble making putts all day, recording three birdies and a bogey.
“The greens were in great shape this morning,” Appleby said.”You couldn’t complain on the roll-ability of them. They definitely have some nuances in them that make them tricky.”
Wi had five birdies and an eagle en route to near quadrupling his point total from the first day. Wi, who has missed back-to-back cuts, has missed a cut and finished 69th twice at the RTO.
Pampling’s 17 points tied JB Holmes, who put up 17 points in the second round last year. Pampling hasn’t won since the 2006 Arnold Palmer Invitational, and the veteran won the 2004 International, a Modified Stableford event that used to be played at Castle Pines outside of Denver.
It was tough sledding for both Josh Teater, the first-round leader, and James Driscoll, who was tied for second with Woodland.
Teater failed to score a point and is tied for 16th place with 15 points with Johnson Wagner, Chris Williams, Luke List and Rory Sabbatini. Driscoll managed two points and sits in a tie for 13th with 16 points.
If the wind stays away, Woodland says, the scores could be good.
“You’re going to have to make some birdies,” Woodland said. “Obviously anytime somebody can make an eagle or double-eagle, the scores change quickly.”
That was the case with Davis Love III, who eagled the 18th hole to get to 14 points for the tournament.
“That gets you to sleep in tomorrow,” he said. “When I made the turn, I wasn’t in great shape. You have to be patient in this format. All it takes is one little spurt and you’re right in the middle of the golf tournament. If I come out tomorrow and make another eagle, I’m right in it.”
Wi was another example of that. He eagled the par-5 13th which put him at plus-17 and right in the thick of the fight for the top spot. After two more pars he added a birdie to get to plus-19.
Toms had a nice round with 15 points, which included eight birdies.
“Yeah, it was a good day,” Toms said. “I hit some close early and then started to make a couple of nice putts midway through the round. I didn’t really get into trouble much. I had one wayward drive over on my back nine. Other than that, I played solid.”