Roberts shoots 67, pads lead to three

October 07, 2007|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Sun Reporter

Loren Roberts hasn't won enough golf tournaments as a front-runner or blown that many chances in the final round to earn a reputation for doing either on a regular basis, yet he has experienced both over the course of his careers on the PGA and Champions tours, including at two majors within a week of each other last summer.

One week after fading with a two-shot lead going into the final round of the Ford Senior Players Championship in Dearborn, Mich., Roberts came back to win the Senior British Open at Turnberry in Scotland, in a playoff over Eduardo Romero. His second senior major came after nearly blowing a four-stroke lead to the Argentine.

Roberts acknowledged that on both occasions, he might have become too aggressive too quickly in the final round.

"Especially in a major championship, you really just have to plod along," Roberts said yesterday. "The main thing that I feel like I have to do in a major championship is don't do anything where I'm not going to at least give myself at least a putt for par. I think I need to get off to a good start tomorrow."

Leading by two strokes going into the third round of the inaugural Constellation Energy Senior Players Championship at Baltimore Country Club in Timonium, Roberts righted himself after an inconsistent start. After two bogeys and a birdie in his first three holes, Roberts made four birdies and 11 pars the rest of the day.

A round of 3-under-par 67 gave him a 54-hole total of 10-under 200, helping Roberts to a three-stroke lead over former Maryland golf coach Fred Funk. Hall of Famer Tom Watson is five strokes behind. Three players - Mark Wiebe, Irishman Des Smyth and David Eger - are six back.

Asked about his final-round pairing today with Roberts, Funk said after shooting a 66: "Really, I want to play the golf course. I'm not really doing a match play with Loren. For me, it's just go out there and hopefully I can do exactly what I did today off the tee and give myself opportunities to make some putts and put heat on him early."

Nobody did yesterday.

Scott Hoch, who came into the third round trailing Roberts by two strokes, faltered with a 74. Watson, who briefly shared the lead twice after Roberts stumbled slightly on the front nine, couldn't keep up, shooting a 68. Wiebe had a 69 and went from four down at the start to seven down at the finish.

"It's going to take a pretty good round to catch Loren," said Wiebe, 50, who won in his Champions Tour debut two weeks ago at the SAS Championship in Cary, N.C. "I don't know if he's going to do too much backing up the way he's playing. I'm just trying to play as hard as I can, add 'em and see where it falls."

Said Watson, 58: "It kind of fits right into his [Roberts'] wheelhouse because of his putting."

Roberts got hot on the back nine, making consecutive birdies on the par-4 10th and par-3 11th to build his lead to two strokes over Watson. It eventually grew to three with a birdie on the par-4 13th. Only consecutive birdies by Funk on the par-4 14th and par-3 15th kept Roberts from starting his victory lap.

If Roberts will be the front-runner today, Funk will be the crowd favorite. Funk, 51, was in contention in the final round a couple of times in the Kemper Open at Avenel in Potomac and actually led early in this year's AT&T National at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda.

But he has never held the champion's trophy in his home state since his years as a local pro more than two decades ago.

"I'm wanting to feed off the crowd all the time," said Funk, who will be hoping that a few thousand fans who cheered his alma mater's football team to victory in College Park yesterday will do the same for him at Five Farms today. "My goal this week was to try to get to the last group on Sunday and have opportunity to feed off of that."

Roberts will try not to let that happen.

He will also try to let what happened in this tournament last year, when he shot a final-round 74, and nearly transpired the next week at the Senior British Open, to happen again.

"Everybody tends to put a little pressure on themselves to win," Roberts said. "I want to go out and win. I'm just going to go out and try to stick to my routine. If you're really, really swinging the club well, it's a little easier to go out and focus. If you're searching for things, it can be a little tougher."

don.markus@baltsun.com

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