TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Irwin’s 5-win streak at Turtle Bay ends
Hale Irwin ended his 36-hole birdie drought in a hurry by scoring a 3 at the first. It wasn't enough to get him back into the chase, but it did leave him with a better feeling as he heads to Maui for next week's Senior Skins game.
Irwin's streak of five consecutive Turtle Bay Championship wins ended unceremoniously yesterday as Loren Roberts captured the Champions Tour event with a two-shot victory over Scott Simpson. The 60-year-old Irwin managed a final-round 70 to finish at 4-over 220 and in a tie for 38th, 16 strokes off the pace.
He spent part of his day in The Golf Channel broadcast booth, offering some solid insights of how to play the Arnold Palmer-designed course. TGC host Mark Rolfing said last night it was one of the best Champions Tour broadcasts they've had. Unfortunately for Irwin, he couldn't say the same about his 54-hole journey at Turtle Bay.
"The fact I didn't have a great week at Hualalai (MasterCard Championship) last week, I didn't come in here expecting great things," Irwin said. "I just wanted to play solidly and try to get back into some kind of good groove. It just didn't happen.
"We had some tough conditions the first couple of days. The trades were blowing pretty heavily and the wind exposes your weaknesses. And my weaknesses were exposed very, very quickly. I just could not get it going. If you don't produce those shots on a course like Turtle Bay, you're just not going to score. My game just wasn't there."
Irwin will be one of eight players next week at the Senior Skins. His playing partner will be Gary Player. Also joining them from this event are Tom Watson, Raymond Floyd and Dana Quigley, who fell down on the 15th green and aggravated a hip and knee injury. He said he hoped to be making the trip. Rounding out the two-man groups are Peter Jacobsen, Palmer and Jack Nicklaus.
Irwin will go from Maui to Florida and believes he's still got game.
"There's always a down time in golf," Irwin said. "In my case, the down time was this week. I mean down time in terms of the game. Perhaps I didn't have the down time over the holidays. Perhaps I needed to kind of get recharged. But I got a swift kick in the tail end this week and I think I've got to get ready very soon."
Save those pars: The highlight reel will show Roberts nailing the 9-footer for eagle at the last to win the first full-field event on the Champions Tour, but it was the 18-footer for par at No. 10 that Roberts will remember most of all.
He has said for several days that to win a golf tournament, you must make the 8- to 10-footers for par to keep the round going. And the two par saves at 10 and 11 set him up to win the tournament with the eagle at the last.
"That was a tough putt," Roberts said of the one at 10. "Trying to lag it down there you look like you'd run it 2 feet by. That was clutch. If that one doesn't go in, all of a sudden I'm 3 over and really going south in a hurry.
"You can just book it. If you're going to win a golf tournament, of all the years I've played, watching golf, and playing it myself, you can almost bet you have to make two putts for par in that 8- to 10-foot length on the back nine to win. And that's why Tiger (Woods) is so good -- because he makes them all the time."
Inside facts: Roberts has already won three Champions Tour events in only eight tries dating back to last summer. He became the first player to win an event with a final-round 72 since Irwin turned the trick at the 2004 Senior PGA Championship.
He also became the first person since Tom Purtzer, who withdrew this week with a bad back, to win an event with an eagle at the final hole. Purtzer managed that feat in 2003 at the SBC Classic in Valencia, Calif.
Roberts is the fourth wire-to-wire winner in tournament history and the first since the event moved to Turtle Bay in 2000. The last one to lead from start to finish was Bruce Fleisher at the 1999 Kaanapali Classic on Maui.
Looking at the numbers: The scoring average yesterday was a steady 73.282. The scoring average over all three days was 73.111, compared to 72.388 last year. There were nine rounds in the 60s yesterday with a total of 28 golfers even par or better for the tournament.
The most difficult hole yesterday was the par-4 10th with an average of 4.487. There were only three birdies in the final round and 13 for the tournament. It wound up being the most difficult hole for the week with an average of 4.385.
The easiest hole yesterday and for the tournament was the 18th, with scoring averages of 4.782 and 4.786, respectively. There were eight eagles and 79 birdies during the 54-hole tournament. There were also two triple bogeys, by Morris Hatalsky and DeWitt Weaver.