2006: Champions Tour - No sputter in Roberts' putter

Turnberry, Scotland

Loren Roberts has let a couple major championships slip. He wasn’t about to let the Senior British Open get away. Although, he almost did.

“I made it more of a contest than I should have,” said Roberts, who won the first three tournaments of the year on the Champions Tour.

Roberts, who started the final round of the Senior British Open with a four-shot lead over Eduardo Romero of Argentina, needed a par putt on the first playoff hole July 30 to secure his second Champions Tour major.

Roberts and Romero finished at 6-under 274 at the Ailsa Course at the Westin Turnberry Resort.

“This is the ultimate achievement for me,” said Roberts after collecting the Claret Jug.

“Obviously I was able to play the Ryder Cup and some Presidents Cups, and to win on (PGA) Tour, but I had a chance at the 1994 U.S. Open and didn’t get it done. After I got in my mid-40s, it was left to the Seniors Tour to win a major. And of all the majors, I am happy to get this one. This gives me great fulfillment.”

Roberts shot 75 in the final round and Romero shot 1-over 71.

In the playoff, Romero reached the back of the green in two at the par-4 18th. Roberts, whose tee shot found the rough, hit his second shot 77 yards short of the green. Roberts pitched to 12 feet and made his par, while Romero three-putted from 40 feet, missing a 4-foot par attempt.

“I am disappointed for Eduardo, because he looked like he had it after the tee shots,” said Roberts. “But I have leaned on my putter for 25 years and I figured as long as I could get a look at a par putt, I would have a chance.”

The key to Roberts’ victory could have been his 1-under 69 in the third round when most players struggled with the rain and 35 mph winds. Saturday’s scoring average was 76.28, with only two players (Roberts and Dick Mast’s 70) matching par or better.

“That is probably in my top three rounds ever,” said Roberts, who opened with bogey-free 65-65. “My ballstriking was really solid today, the best yet this week.”

Roberts has finished in the top 10 at all four majors so far: T-3 at the Ford Senior Players; T-8 at the Senior Open and fifth at the Senior PGA. He is the defending champion of the final major, the Jeld-Wen Tradition later this month.

Romero has finished among the top 10 in the last three Senior British Opens (T-9 in 2005 and T-2 in 2004).

Feeling young again: Fred Funk, who turned 50 in June, found his way back to the PGA Tour after playing back-to-back majors on the Champions Tour, following his debut at the U.S. Senior Open and Ford Senior Players (he tied for 11th at both). At the U.S. Senior Open, he was cast in the unfamiliar role as favorite and struggled; at the Ford Players, he hit the ball well but struggled with the putter.

His two-week foray with the over-50 set has caused Funk to reassess his position of moving to the Champions Tour full time. He’ll probably make only one more Champions Tour start this season (AT&T Championship in San Antonio).

“I’m just not finished out here yet,” said Funk, who, as 2005 Players champion, is exempt on the PGA Tour until age 55. “I just feel like I don’t want to turn that page or that chapter of my career over yet.”

Funk bypassed the Senior British Open and tied for 15th at the U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee.

Short shots: Jay Haas has finished in the top 10 in all four majors (first at Senior PGA; T-8 at Senior Open; T-3 at Senior Players; and T-6 at Senior British). . . . Bob Larratt of England used an 8-iron for a hole-in-one at the 171-yard fourth hole. He received 171 bottles of Hardy’s Australian wine for the ace. . . . Hale Irwin (5-over 285) won the Fred Daly Award for low player over age 60. Irwin won £3,000. . . . Gary Player, 70, bettered his age with a first-round 69.

It was the third time Player has accomplished the feat. Player tied for 65th. . . . Jerry Pate, who won his first Champions Tour event at the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am Feb. 26, underwent right shoulder surgery July 20 to repair torn cartilage and will miss four months. . . . The Jeld-Wen will move to Sunriver (Ore.) Resort’s Crosswater Golf Club after this year.

– Staff and wire reports

On the tee

Next up: Boeing Greater Seattle Classic, Aug. 18-20, TPC Snoqualmie Ridge, Snoqualmie, Wash. Defending champion: David Eger.

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