TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Loren Roberts shot a 6-under-par 66 yesterday at Turtle Bay, the best opening round since the tournament moved to Oahu in 2000.
He has started the Champions Tour season 31 under par and looks to go even lower
Loren Roberts has been in Hawaii so long, he's reluctant to return to the real world. And who can blame him?
So far, his three-week stay in paradise has produced a tie for 18th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, a record-setting performance at the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai and now the lead after yesterday's first round of the $1.5 million Turtle Bay Championship.
His 6-under 66 is the best opening 18 holes since the tournament moved to Oahu, and left him one shot clear of Bruce Summerhays in the windy and rainy conditions that greeted the first full-field event on the Champions Tour. Of the 78 golfers touring the Arnold Palmer-designed course along the inhospitable North Shore, only seven managed rounds in the 60s.
Don Pooley, who finished second to Roberts by one last Sunday at Hualalai, managed one of those rounds. Despite missing several putts on the back nine, Pooley did enough right to find himself alone in third at 4-under 68. Four golfers were another shot back at 3-under 69, including former Kailua resident Scott Simpson and Jim Thorpe, who was Roberts' playing partner yesterday.
Thorpe could only stand by and marvel at how well Roberts is not only putting the golf ball, but striking it. He finished tied for first in greens in regulation yesterday and first in putting. Last week in perfect conditions at Hualalai Golf Club, he finished 25 under to set the Champions Tour 54-hole record in relation to par. In Roberts' first four rounds this year on the senior circuit, he is 31 under.
No wonder he's so happy here in the 50th state.
"Well, I probably wouldn't have believed it," Roberts said, when asked if someone had told him a month ago he'd be 31 under at this point on the Champions Tour. "I'm extremely happy with the start I've had. I felt really good getting ready to start the year. I had good practice sessions at home. I showed up ready to play for the first time in years."
Bruce Summerhays shot a 67 yesterday, leaving him a stroke behind Loren Roberts after the first round.
You won't get much of an argument from any of the seniors playing with the new kid on the block. Despite competing in only six Champions Tour events last year, he still managed a victory at the Tradition last summer, a portent of things to come for Roberts, who turned 50 in June.
He opened the year at the first full-field event on the PGA Tour and wound up 4 under for the tournament and in a tie for 18th with such standouts as world No. 10 Adam Scott. He said after the Sony Open that he loved playing at Waialae, but it's likely two other Hawaii courses will garner even more of his attention in the future.
"Some of these guys are buying property over here," Roberts said. "Dana Quigley bought a place this week and Don Pooley told me he's looking at a place up the road here. I'm thinking, maybe I should get a place over here, too."
Not surprising, Pooley wasn't too far off the pace. Despite opening with a 31 on the front that included a chip-in for eagle at the ninth, he wasn't able to keep pace on the back, closing with a 1-over 37. And this, despite missing several birdie putts by mere inches.
"I actually hit a lot of great putts; they just didn't go in over the back nine," Pooley said. "I hit the ball really well today. It was a little frustrating, but there's still a lot of golf to be played."
In all, 15 golfers landed in the red, including Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and Jay Haas at 2-under 70, and Tom Watson at 1-under 71 with a birdie at the last. Five-time defending champion Hale Irwin shot a 1-over 73, only the second time since the tournament moved here in 2000 that he shot in the black.
Irwin is still in it, but at this point, Roberts is the man to beat. He had seven birdies and one bogey yesterday to hold off Summerhays, who's spending as much time with his family as practicing on the golf course.
He had 44 family members with him at Hualalai last week and 32 of them made the trip over to Oahu. Some may think of that as a distraction -- not the 62-year-old Summerhays.
"They couldn't distract me," Summerhays said. "I love having them here with me. It was a good opening round for me. I played well and putted well. There are a lot of good golfers out here as we saw last week at Hualalai and here today in these difficult conditions. Despite the weather, I felt comfortable out there."
The wind and rain didn't seem to bother Roberts all that much, either. His ball-striking is almost as good as his putting. Perhaps that's why he has one eagle, 33 birdies and only two bogeys and one double bogey over the last 72 holes.
"I really hit the ball well today," Roberts said. "I think I missed only two greens. The first five holes I really hit the ball awesome. I was 2 under through the first five and that was probably the highest score I could have shot. You can't shoot under par when the wind is blowing like this without hitting the ball solidly.
"That's the whole key to playing in the wind, I think. That's probably why Tom Watson won so many Open championships. I'm getting comfortable here. I putted very well here today. I made a couple of good 8-footers to save par. That was key to my round, making those par putts. You never know what's going to happen. This is only the first round, but I feel good about my game."
Today's tee times
Bob Eastwood, Rocky Thompson and Bruce Lietzke. 8:36 a.m.:
Joe Inman, Mike Reid and Bruce Fleisher. 8:47 a.m.:
DeWitt Weaver, Tom Jenkins and Hubert Green. 8:58 a.m.:
Jim Colbert, Dick Mast and Pat McGowan.
Curtis Strange, Fuzzy Zoeller and Bobby Wadkins. 9:20 a.m.:
Jack Ferenz, Stan Souza and Leonard Thompson. 9:31 a.m.:
Ed Dougherty, Jim Ahern and John Harris. 9:42 a.m.:
David Eger, Mitch Adcock and Mike McCullough. 9:53 a.m.:
Hugh Baiocchi, Graham Marsh and Jay Sigel
Larry Nelson, Scott Masingill and Brad Bryant. 10:15 a.m.:
Dave Barr, Gary Player and Ron Streck. 10:26 a.m.:
Bob Gilder, Hale Irwin and Keith Fergus. 10:37 a.m.:
David Ishii, Mike Sullivan and James Mason. 10:48 a.m.:
Gil Morgan, John Jacobs and Des Smyth. 10:59 a.m.:
Dave Eichelberger, Jim Chancey and Mark McNulty
Doug Tewell, Wayne Levi and Howard Twitty. 11:21 a.m.:
R.W. Eaks, Craig Stadler and Dana Quigley. 11:32 a.m.:
Tom Kite, Vicente Fernandez and Walter Hall. 11:43 a.m.:
Dan Pohl, Danny Edwards and Allen Doyle. 11:54 a.m.:
Massy Kuramoto, Morris Hatalsky and Andy Bean.
Bill Longmuir, Hajime Meshiai and Rick Karbowski. 12:16 p.m.:
Jay Haas, Isao Aoki and Tom Watson. 12:27 p.m.:
Raymond Floyd, Ben Crenshaw and Lonnie Nielsen. 12:38 p.m.:
Mark Johnson, Jerry Pate and Tom McKnight. 12:49 p.m.:
Kiyoshi Murota, Scott Simpson and Jim Thorpe
Loren Roberts, Bruce Summerhays and Don Pooley.