MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Nobody has played Memphis’ PGA Tour stop more than Loren Roberts. No one has wanted to win it more than him.
Now a regular on the Champions Tour and 53, Roberts was tied for seventh Friday in the St. Jude Classic when second-round play was suspended because of thunderstorms. He finished off his second 67 before play was stopped.
“I wanted to try to win this golf course for a long, long time and could never get it done,” Roberts said.
He admitted moving to the Champions Tour might have helped him relax and enjoy golf a bit more, easing the pressure to perform at a TPC Southwind course near his home. Roberts called it free-wheeling for someone who will play the PGA Tour stop in Milwaukee and possibly one other regular-tour event this year after missing the cut in Hawaii at the Sony Open in January.
Roberts already has a win and six top-10 finishes on the Champions Tour this year.
“That’s a huge, huge hurdle to get over. Some guys get over it, some guys don’t. Some guys never even worry about it,” Roberts said.
Roberts broke a tie with fellow Tennessean Lou Graham when he started this event on Thursday, his 25th appearance in the tournament’s 52-year history in Memphis. He tied Dave Hill and Gene Littler by making his 20th cut.
This has been a tough year for an event that benefits St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital with the loss of title sponsor Stanford Financial in March and a purse reduction announced late last week.
“I’m just so thankful that the Memphis community has rallied around this tournament the way that it has after what happened a few months ago. And I just think, I just kind of wanted to make the cut to be around for the weekend. And to be in contention, that’s a huge bonus,” Roberts said.
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WAIT SOME MORE: John Daly finished at the projected cut line at even par after a 2-under 68. With the weather delay, he will have to wait until Saturday morning to see if he keeps playing in his first PGA Tour event following a six-month suspension.
Daly finished just as the afternoon wave was teeing off. He opened with a 72 and had broken par on this course only three times in his previous 19 rounds. He didn’t talk when he finished.
If he makes the cut, a temporary restraining order Daly’s attorneys obtained Wednesday keeping his estranged wife away from the course would be extended into the weekend.
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TOUGH LANDING: Brian Gay had the clubhouse lead by two strokes when play was suspended Friday. He was cruising along with seven birdies and only one bogey for a five-stroke lead.
Until he got to No. 17.
Gay hit a nice tee shot that landed behind a tree. His second shot was worse as he overhooked a 5-iron.
“It went up against the back lip in the bunker. Couldn’t hardly stand up to hit it. Left it in the bunker, hit it out like 5 feet, made a putt for bogey,” Gay said.
It didn’t get much better on No. 18 when he hit his tee shot into the right rough and put a 6-iron into a right bunker. He knocked his third 14 feet from the hole only to see his putt stay on the left edge.
“But pretty happy with 10 under,” said Gay, who can earn a berth in next week’s U.S. Open with his second win this year.
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MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME: Guy Boros had been scheduled to play the Nationwide Tour across Tennessee in Knoxville until he got into the St. Jude Classic on Tuesday, taking the next to last spot. He made the six-hour drive across the state worth it by following up an opening 67 with a 66 to tie for fourth with 78 players left to finish.
Not bad for a guy who was ready to give up the game altogether over the past couple years. Son of the late two-time U.S. Open champ Julius Boros with a PGA tour win to his credit in 1996, Boros reconsidered.
“I don’t know (how) to do anything else,” he said.
He got some lessons from his brother and a friend, changing his takeaway and moving him closer to the ball. Another lesson earlier this year from a pro in Florida helped straighten out his ball flight. This is his third PGA Tour event, with his best finish a tie for 66 in Puerto Rico. He has played seven Nationwide Tour events.
This is easily his best start of 2009.
“It’s no fun when you’re playing bad. There are signs of me playing good but for two, three days. The game is getting funner and funner,” he said.
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PLAYING PARTNERS: Brian Gay had a nice partner for the first two rounds in Woody Austin, who matched his 66 for the second round. Gay called it a good group. Actually, they almost kept it all in the family.
“My caddie and his caddie are brothers, so we had a good time out there,” Gay said.
Austin won here in 2007. He said he told Gay to make three bogeys while Austin posted two birdies to keep him only three back.
“I’m going to have to play really good because he’s playing well,” Austin said.
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DIVOTS: Play stopped at 5:23 p.m. Friday because of a storm system that brought tornado warnings to Memphis and had tornado sirens wailing. It was the seventh PGA Tour event interrupted by weather this year. … Gay’s 130 total for 36 holes is his personal best on tour. He shot 131 twice, most recently at the 2003 Zurich Classic in New Orleans. … Boros needed only nine putts over his final nine holes.