It must be said he wasn’t the most likely of winners. But a decade on from his last European Tour victory, five years since his previous appearance in a regular tour event, and nine years removed from even his last top-10 in an Old World tournament, Andres Romero finished first in the BMW International Open. With a bogey-free final-round 65 over the Golfclub Munchen Eichenreid course just outside Munich, the 36-year-old Argentinian reached 17 under par to beat out Masters champion Sergio Garcia, Englishman Richard Bland and promising young Belgian Thomas Detry by a single stroke.
As ever on one of the European Tour’s more forgiving lay-outs, the tournament was its usual birdie-fest, the four main contenders a cumulative 19 under for the final day alone. But it was Romero, ranked a lowly 837th in the world at the start of the week, who made the decisive thrust over the closing holes—seven birdies in the last 11 holes—as all three of his closest challengers faltered slightly.
It came down to this. With Detry in at 16 under, Romero closed with his 22nd birdie of the tournament—he also made an ace at the second hole in Round 1—to grab the clubhouse lead. That left the final pairing of Garcia and Bland, who had both dropped a shot in the previous two holes, needing eagles on the reachable par 5 to force a playoff.
Neither managed to do so, although both came close. Garcia’s chip from behind the final green finished inches from the cup. And Bland, a non-winner in 20 years as a professional, missed from roughly 18 feet as his putt drifted to the right.
“I’m really happy, after 10 years winning on the European Tour, especially here in Germany. I’m really, really happy,” said Romero, whose previous victory came at the Deutsche Bank Tournament Players Championship of Europe. “The whole round was very good. I was focused all day. I didn’t make any bogeys, that is a rare thing for my type of game. The last few holes I noticed I made seven birdies but the whole round was excellent.
“I was nervous when I got to the 18th green, but finally when I was thinking with two putts I could win the tournament, I was really nervous. But hopefully I was going to do a two-putt and now I have my trophy and enjoy this moment.”
As for Garcia, his first visit “home” since winning his first major did not bring the result he wanted. But the Spaniard was happy enough with his overall play.
“It was a good week, and I obviously fell just short,” he said. “I felt like I played well enough to win for sure. Obviously there were a couple of missed putts here and there today, and some really good putts that didn't want to go in. So it was difficult to get anything going. And then, unfortunately that chip on 18 looked pretty good, but it just missed on the right side.
“You have to give credit to Andres. With no status, neither here on the European Tour or the PGA Tour, to go out and shoot 65 today, I’m happy for him.”
Indeed, the lasting impression of the week is the astonishing turnaround in Romero’s fortunes. Playing on a sponsor’s invitation, the man who could and maybe should have won the 2007 Open at Carnoustie beat out a strong field (Open champion Henrik Stenson and rising star Tommy Fleetwood were also in the top 10) and performed like the player he has not been for quite some time. Not since 2011 has Romero finished better than 100th on the FedEx Cup standings. And his only PGA Tour victory came at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in 2008, when he went on to become rookie of the year.
Isn’t golf great?