SONOMA, Calif.--Pars don't figure to cut it this week at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Sonoma Golf Club.
"The course is playing very soft," said Tom Watson, who won here in 2005 on the strength of a final-round 64. "The greens are soft, the fairways are soft. The rough is tough, but the greens aren't hard. It's going to be a very low-scoring tournament."
The seniors' season-ender has been a low-scoring tournament since it settled here in 2003 after stints in Oklahoma City and Myrtle Beach. Jim Thorpe won with a 20-under 268 in 2003 and was 17 under when he won last year. Mark McNulty was 11 under when he won in 2004, and Watson won at 16 under.
"The golf course today was very, very scoreable," Loren Roberts said after his pro-am round. "I think you've got to be 4- or 5-under every day [to win] unless conditions change drastically."
The pristine conditions of the putting surfaces will help Roberts--and the rest of the 29-player field--go low. "They might be the best greens we play on tour," Roberts said. "They're fast. They're smooth. I like that."
Roberts enters the week with a 165-point margin over Jay Haas in the Schwab Cup season-long points competition, which he narrowly lost to Haas in 2006. Tom Watson (684 points behind) and Brad Bryant (697 behind) are the only other players with a mathematical chance to claim the $1 million annuity.
"I want to focus on winning the golf tournament," Roberts said. "I don't want to get caught up with trying to play Jay. I need to concentrate on winning the tournament."
While Mark O'Meara (13th on the money list) qualified but is playing in an event overseas instead, several other senior mainstays are absent after having failed to finish in the top 30. Allen Doyle and Tom Jenkins aren't here after playing eight straight Schwab championships each, Morris Hatalsky is absent after five straight appearances and Craig Stadler is missing his first after four consecutive starts here.
--*Bill Fields *