Argentina's Romero leads Puerto Rico Open

Andres Romero of Argentina looks on from the eighth green during the first round of the Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach Golf and Country Club on Thursday in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. — AFP

MIAMI — Andres Romero, seeking his first US PGA Tour win in more than a decade, fired six birdies in a six-under par 66 Thursday to take the first-round lead in the Puerto Rico Open.

Romero was one shot clear of Austrian rookie Sepp Straka, who had six birdies and one bogey in his 67.

While Romero hasn't won on the US tour since the 2008 Zurich Classic of New Orleans, he captured the European Tour's BMW International Open in 2017.

Although he hadn't cracked the top 20 in two prior events this season, Romero said he had been playing well, and was delighted to see that reflected in his score

"I'm really happy with the round. It's my putting that has been letting me down lately and today it was very good," he said. "So it gives me a lot of confidence for my whole game."

Straka, a graduate of the developmental tour, is seeking his first PGA Tour title. He was one stroke in front of a group of nine players on 68, a group that included Canadian David Hearn.

A group of eight players on 69 included amateur Bryson Nimmer, a Clemson University senior who is making his first PGA Tour start.

D.A. Points, who won the most recent edition of the Puerto Rico Open in 2017 — with 2018's edition canceled as the island recovered from the devastation of Hurricane Maria — opened with a one-under par 71 in the tournament played opposite the elite WGC-Mexico Championship.

Woods will skip Honda Classic,

chase 9th Palmer Invitational title

Tiger Woods will be chasing a PGA Tour record ninth Arnold Palmer Invitational title when he tees it up at Bay Hill next month, confirming Thursday he will play there after skipping the Honda Classic.

Woods is an eight-time winner at the Palmer Invitational host course Bay Hill. He and Sam Snead — who won eight Greater Greensboro Open titles — have won the same event so many times.

Woods tweeted the expected news that he would sit out next week's Honda Classic near his home in Jupiter, Florida, after playing back-to-back weeks in Los Angeles and Mexico City.

"Unfortunately, due to the schedule this year, I cannot play all the events I want to," Woods tweeted. "I will be taking next week off and playing in the @APinv and @THEPLAYERSChamp.

"Sorry to miss seeing Jack (Nicklaus) and everyone at Honda."

Since opting to make his first competitive start in Mexico, Woods has wrestled with his plans for the four tournaments following in Florida.

With his eyes firmly on the first major of the year, the Masters at Augusta National in April, the 43-year-old Woods said he needed to find the right balance of competitive rounds and rest.

Returning to Bay Hill, where he has won eight times and finished equal fifth last year when he was still in the early stages of his return from spinal fusion surgery, makes plenty of sense.

In four starts as a professional at the Honda Classic he has never won. "I always love playing at Bay Hill," Woods said in a statement. "I have such great memories of Arnold and am happy to be back for the 19th time.

"Of course, it would be great to win and set a new record, but that's for me to do on the course."

Woods still hasn't confirmed whether he will play in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook in Florida, the week after the Players Championship.

He made his debut there last year and nearly won, but this year he will be qualified for the WGC-Match Play the following week and could opt to play there instead rather than pile up multiple weeks.

"It gets very complicated," Woods said Wednesday of his Florida options. — AFP