October 6, 2007

Roberts' Sweetest Win Yet

With a six-stroke victory at the Senior Players Championship, Loren Roberts put his Sunday problems to bed and won another major

It's tough to beat a guy who led the field in putts, greens-in-regulation and birdies.

It's tough to beat a guy who led the field in putts, greens-in-regulation and birdies.

TIMONIUM, Md. -- "I won the first flight," Tom Watson said as he walked into the media center at the Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship Sunday afternoon.

The Hall of Famer wasn't far off.

Watson finished 72 holes at Baltimore CC's Five Farms east course at 7-under 273. His score was good for second place in the Champions Tour major, but it was a distant six shots behind winner Loren Roberts.

Roberts, who began the day leading Fred Funk by three shots, made easy work of the A.W. Tillinghast-designed course and its difficult greens, shooting a 67 to finish at 13-under 267.

The margin of victory mattered less to Roberts than the fact that he came through in the clutch. Sundays with a lead haven't been the easiest task for him, including at the Senior Players Championship in 2006, when he carried a two-shot advantage into the final round but frittered it away and shot a 74 to lose to Bobby Wadkins.

"I really exorcised some demons today," Roberts admitted after his victory. "This one might be the sweetest for me because of what happened last year."

Roberts, 52, quickly took the drama out of the summer-like day, hitting a 9-iron to four feet for birdie at No. 2 for the first of four consecutive birdies. "He just closed the door so early in the round," said Watson, "and then really locked the door on No. 9 when he made that tap-in birdie with a great second shot."

Watson was referring to Roberts' 3-iron from 189 yards which rolled to the back edge of the green and then made its way back down a slope to within two feet. The birdie gave Roberts a front-nine 30 and a seven-stroke lead. Funk reduced the deficit to five with a birdie at No. 12 but made a double-bogey on No. 13. By the time Roberts got to the 18th tee, his lead was again seven.

His performance (no three-putts for the week) matched the vibe he got when he saw the course for the first time. "I love these kind of greens because it's all about feel, pace and imagination, and that's kind of the way I putt," Roberts said. "When I saw this course, I [knew] this was going to be a great golf course for me."

This is the third straight year Roberts has won a senior major, a feat matched or bettered only by Hale Irwin, Miller Barber, Gary Player and Raymond Floyd.

Roberts' performance moved him past Jay Haas and into first place in the Charles Schwab Cup points competition. Haas, who finished T-17 at 1 under, had led the points race since last July but now trails Roberts by 161 points. The stage is set for another showdown late this month at the Schwab Cup Championship in Sonoma, Calif., where Haas edged Roberts for the 2006 prize when Roberts three-putted the last hole.

For now, Roberts has the hot hand and a very fulfilling week to reflect on.