TURTLE BAY CHAMPIONSHIP
Loren Roberts celebrated after knocking in a putt for eagle on the 18th hole to win the Turtle Bay Championship yesterday.
Roberts rolls again
An eagle on No. 18 gives him his second victory in two weeks in the island chain
Loren Roberts didn't have a birdie in the final round, but thanks to an eagle at the last, he didn't need one.
For the second consecutive week, Roberts erased any chance of a playoff by sinking a critical putt at the 18th. Eight days ago at the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai, it was a 30-footer for birdie that made Don Pooley's final swing irrelevant.
He did the same thing to Scott Simpson yesterday with a 9-footer for eagle to secure the $1.5 million Turtle Bay Championship for his second consecutive victory in Hawaii and become the first person since Larry Nelson in 2001 to win the first two events on the Champions Tour.
"I thought I played the last hole as well as I could play it," Roberts said. "I had an opportunity to really do something spectacular. I got down there after the tee shot and I had an absolute perfect yardage for a cut 4-iron. It was the first perfect one I had all day. And it worked out perfect. As soon as it left the club I looked up and I saw it and it was just exactly where I wanted to hit it."
The heart-stopping victory at the final hole gave him the $225,000 first-place paycheck. Add the $290,000 he pocketed last week at Hualalai, plus the $64,260 he made for finishing in a tie for 18th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and Roberts leaves the island chain with $579,260 tucked safely in his wallet.
"It was a struggle today," Roberts said. "I missed a short birdie putt at the first hole and kind of lost a little confidence in the putter. I had a couple of three-putts on the first nine and let everybody back into the field. I tried to hit a bunch of good shots; I hit some poor ones. When I hit a good one, they didn't quite turn out."
Simpson drew even with the struggling Roberts with a birdie at the 17th. Both golfers were 10 under for the tournament stepping on the 18th tee. Both golfers hit ideal drives, with Roberts hitting his approach first. It couldn't have landed in a better place, about 9 feet from the hole.
It left Simpson with a tough act to follow. He found the dance floor, but his approach wound up about 50 feet above the hole. His eagle putt lagged down to about 4 feet, forcing Roberts to make his 9-footer to avoid a possible playoff. It went straight into the hole, and he finished the day with an even-par 72 and a 12-under 204 for the event.
Simpson missed his birdie putt, but it didn't cost him anything. He tapped in for par to settle for a 2-under 70 and a 10-under 206 for the tournament. Isao Aoki, who at the turn threatened to become the oldest golfer (63) to win a Champions Tour event, shot a 1-over 37 on the back to finish at 2-under 70 for the day. His 9-under 207 left him alone in third.
"Overall, I played really well," Simpson said. "I guess the frustrating part for me was probably not making a few more putts and not birdie the 5-pars because I hit some really good shots.
"Honestly, starting the day, I was pretty sure Loren was going to run away with it. But when he wasn't playing that well and couldn't get putts to drop and stuff. ... He didn't play that bad, he just couldn't get anything going. And I was just a little off here and there."
So was Roberts. He began the day the same way he played his first five rounds on the Champions Tour, hitting an approach within 5 feet at the opening hole. But when his birdie putt missed wide right, it seemed to send Roberts into a tailspin.
Two three-putts for bogey at Nos. 5 and 6 and suddenly Roberts made the turn at 2-over 38. Aoki and Bruce Summerhays caught him at 10 under, but eventually faded from view. Simpson said the 18-footer for par at No. 10 saved Roberts' round and the champion readily agreed.
"I made two really good up and downs for par at 10 and 11," Roberts said. "Ten is such a hard hole. You had to play left of the flag today and I just got over the top with a 5-iron. I hit it long and left, and missed the green. It was just an impossible chip and I was lucky to roll in about an 18-footer there for par down the slope breaking right to left.
"And that just kind of slapped me upside the head enough to kind of hang in the back nine. I was posing on a second-shot 5-iron at No. 11 and it came up short of the green. I didn't hit a very good chip and I had to make a 6-footer there for par. It seemed like I was struggling. I couldn't get the ball near the hole today."
Meanwhile, Simpson made things interesting with birdies at Nos. 14 and 17. His 12-footer for birdie at 17 drew him even at 10 under. Roberts' 10-footer for birdie twisted foul at the hole, leaving him with a par and in need of a quick fix. He found it at the 18th.
"Scott made a really clutch putt at 17 to kind of halve the match," Roberts said. "The whole thing came down to 18, where I probably made the best three swings of the day. I hit a perfect tee shot. I got down there and I had an absolute perfect number for the club I needed to hit.
"I could hit just a good solid normal 4-iron, downwind left to right, yardage was perfect. It was probably, considering the day, the best putt I hit all day. It went right in the middle. The last hole was the culmination of 17 holes just slogging through and the culmination was the 18th hole of everything going perfect. It was a slight left-to-right putt, which is my favorite, so. And it all worked out."