WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - It's often the hottest team, not necessarily the best team, that wins championships.
That may also ring true for golf.
When handicapping the Greenbrier Classic field, prognosticators would likely point to Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson or other big names playing here this week.
But the hottest golfer, at least in terms of Old White TPC, is none of the above.
Argentinean Andres Romero sat at even par after two rounds of last year's Classic before stringing together weekend rounds of 66 and 65, finishing at 9 under and one shot short of being a part of the playoff eventually won by Scott Stallings.
On Thursday, it didn't take long for Romero to carry that momentum into this year's tournament, as he posted a 31 on the front nine and plugged his way to a 5-under-par 65 in the first round.
"Last year I played very well here, I like this course, I'm playing well and I'm hitting the ball just like I like it," Romero said via interpreter. "I made a bogey on the last hole but I'm really happy with my golf today. After the Memorial I've been playing really well."
Indeed, his tie for second at the Memorial could've been a bit of a turning point for Romero. He missed six cuts in 13 tournaments before the Memorial, and a tie for 29th at the Byron Nelson Championship had been his highest finish of the year.
But it's pretty obvious Romero feels right at home in the hills around Old White, and this time around he doesn't have a mountain range worth of ground to make up.
"It's nice to start with a 5 under," Romero said. "There are three more days but I think if I work hard this week I can win."
Stricker's Ryder Cup bid
Steve Stricker had originally planned to skip the Greenbrier Classic, but changed his mind.
In fact, Stricker had already given his normal caddy the week off, meaning his wife, Nicki, was left to haul the clubs around.
The sudden change of heart really isn't difficult to explain as Davis Love III could probably tell you.
See, Stricker is currently 14th in Ryder Cup points, six spots away from automatic qualification for the team captained by Love.
The top eight in the standings - currently Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Woods, Simpson, Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hunter Mahan and Zach Johnson - are on the team, and the final four spots are chosen by the captain, in this case Love.
"I'm trying to play my way on that team," Stricker said. "I need to play some and play well."
Ryder Cup points aside, Stricker posted a solid 1-under 69 in his first competitive round at the Old White TPC. His impressions of the course and the people were all positive.
"It was good," Stricker said. "I had a problem with the speed of the greens I think, they looked faster than they really are, they're not all that quick and I kind of struggled to get the ball to the hole. The course was in good shape. It's a fun place to play and it's nice to be here."
An education for Ferrell
Fairmont State's Jess Ferrell struggled Thursday, landing near the bottom of the scoring list with a 10-over-par 80, but he sure got a good look at a couple of solid rounds. Playing partners Martin Flores (64) and Richard H. Lee (67) put themselves near the top of the leader board.