TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Loren Roberts carded his second consecutive 66 for a four-shot lead at the Turtle Bay Championship.
Roberts runs unopposed at Turtle Bay
The 50-year-old can cruise to the finish after building a four-shot lead with one round left
Loren Roberts has spent the past two weeks on the Champions Tour rewriting several pages in the record books.
His second straight 66 yesterday left him with the lowest 36-hole total in the history of the $1.5 million Turtle Bay Championship as he begins today's final round with a four-shot lead over Scott Simpson.
And while that mark isn't as impressive as the records he set last week at the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai, the 12-under effort in less-than-ideal weather conditions at the Arnold Palmer-designed course is worthy of mention.
The only time Roberts hasn't led at the end of a round in five rounds of Champions Tour golf in 2006 was after the second 18 holes last weekend. He trailed Don Pooley by three shots only to beat him by one with a dramatic 30-foot birdie putt at the last. Considering how the 50-year-old Roberts is playing, it's unlikely he'll need any 30-footers at 18 today to become the first golfer since Larry Nelson in 2001 to win the first two events on the Champions Tour.
Not that he's making any predictions. His job today will be the same as the previous two rounds. And when you realize he is 37 under over the last 90 holes, it doesn't leave much room for drama. It's not a matter of whether he will win, but by how many strokes.
"I just tried to keep doing what I did yesterday," Roberts said. "Just try to hit a lot of solid shots. I just missed one green and that was about a foot and a half on the fringe with a 9-iron. I think the key is I'm driving it well. You know, I'm putting the ball in play. And that leads to good iron shots, especially when you're touching it (clean and place) in the fairway. After I went 2 under through seven, it was a good round from there."
Simpson managed a good round as well. His 5-under 67 yesterday left him at 136 for the tournament and four shots off Roberts' blistering pace. R.W. Eaks heads a group of four golfers tied for third at 7-under 135. After opening with a ho-hum 72 on Friday, Eaks came back with a 65 that equals the tournament course record held by three others.
Joining him were 63-year-old Isao Aoki (66), best known for his chip-in eagle to win the 1983 United Airlines Hawaiian Open, Bruce Summerhays (70) and Pooley (69). Jay Haas (68) is alone in seventh at 6-under 137.
There were only seven rounds in the 60s during the opening 18 holes that had its share of wind and rain. Yesterday, the rain stayed away, but the trades blew hard enough to wreak havoc, with three rounds in the 80s. Still, there were 16 rounds in the 60s as most of the senior set got comfortable with the conditions.
Through 36 holes, 21 golfers are in the red. But don't count five-time defending champion Hale Irwin among them. He has yet to have a birdie through 36 holes and finds himself in a tie for 57th, some 18 strokes off the pace at 6-over 150.
This year, the tournament is Roberts' to lose. Even if he shot an even-par 72 today, Simpson would have to close with a 5-under 67 to beat him. And while the former Kailua resident is capable of posting a score like that one, he still needs Roberts to shoot his first round in the 70s since his third-round 71 at the Sony Open. And that's the only one in 2006.
"The way Loren is playing, he can buy an island," Simpson said, then smiled. "A little $3 million place on the beach. What's wrong with that? I'm having a really good week. I was going to have a really good week, no matter if I shot 80. But this is even better.
"I love playing in Hawaii. I love being here. It's a lot of fun. I'll be playing with Loren tomorrow. That will be a lot of fun, too. I've been putting really well. That's been a lot of fun. The greens are perfect. I've been really rolling the ball good and I've been hitting it better. Well last week some guy shot 61, came back and won. It will probably take that tomorrow the way Loren's playing."
Roberts ran his birdie total on the Champions Tour to 40 in five rounds. He managed only his second bogey of this tournament at the par-4 second. But got it back with a birdie at the third.
He shot a 4-under 32 on the back nine, including two birdies at the final two holes to open his comfortable cushion on Simpson and Co. So far, he has hit 24 of 28 fairways and 33 of 36 greens and is second in putting. No wonder he is four shots clear of the field.
"No lead is big enough," Roberts said. "There's too many good players out here. It's not easy. I just happened to catch a couple of weeks where I'm doing a lot of things right and am putting well. Hopefully that will continue tomorrow.
"I just want to get out early tomorrow, make a couple of birdies early. If I can make a couple of birdies through six, that's my goal. Just play the first three 1 under par, then get another one after that and keep going."