Roberts' run posing interesting dilemma
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By Bill Kwon
By Bill Kwon
He's mulling record on Champions, or time on PGA Tour
Loren Roberts might be called "Boss of the Moss" for his putting artistry, but he soon might be simply called "Boss" by his peers on the Champions Tour.
With his Hawai'i sweep — victories in the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai and the Turtle Bay Championship — Roberts is establishing himself as this year's alpha male of the over-50 set.
No one has opened the Champions Tour season with three straight victories since it officially began in 1980.
Roberts, who set tour and tournament records in tearing up Hualalai, can become the first by winning the Ace Group Classic, the next Champions Tour stop, in Naples, Fla., Feb. 17 to 19.
Larry Nelson started the 2001 season with back-to-back victories and Don January did it in 1981 but neither could make it three in a row.
The senior tour record for most consecutive victories is three — done by Lee Trevino (1992) and Bob Charles (1987).
Making it three in a row is obviously on Roberts' mind. But he's caught in a dilemma.
At the Sony Open in Hawai'i, where he finished tied for 18th to pick up $64,260, Roberts said he'd like to play in the PGA Tour's Nissan Open in Los Angeles if he won or did well at Hualalai and Turtle Bay.
"Did well" proved to be an understatement, as he won both and earned $515,000.
By winning the first two events, Roberts has set the stage for history. But it means passing up the Nissan Open, scheduled for the same week.
Roberts feels he needs to get in some events on the regular tour in order "to stay connected, you know socially," with the younger players, because he was asked by U.S. Ryder Cup team captain Tom Lehman to be an assistant along with Corey Pavin for this year's event in Ireland.
"I feel very fortunate to be in a position where I can play both tours right now," Roberts said. "Obviously, this (the Champions Tour) is where I'm going to play for the next 10 years. (But) I still think I need a bit of a connection on the regular tour."
So while Roberts is enjoying the best of both golf worlds by being good enough to play on both tours — his bio is listed in both of this year's PGA and Champions tour media guides — he never thought he'd run into a scheduling conflict so early in the year.
Even if he doesn't play in the Nissan Open, Roberts still plans to play six to eight events on the PGA Tour with the hopes of keeping his playing card.
One reason, he said, is so he can return next year to play at the Waialae Country Club where he has had three top-10 finishes, including two in the Sony Open.
Last year, Roberts had a strong showing in the Southern Farm Bureau Classic, the final PGA Tour event, to keep his playing card. He won $264,000 to move from 126th to 93rd on the money list.
Roberts, though, realizes that it's with the seniors that he's now "The Boss." It was David Ogrin who first called Roberts "Boss of the Moss."
"He yelled (it) over to me in the locker room in the 1985 U.S. Open while I was being interviewed," Roberts said.
For a while, Roberts wasn't the boss of anything.
He went to Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo in California, but the school dropped the golf program after his freshman year. He remained in college (he's in the school's athletic hall of fame) and later worked as a club professional in his native Southern California.
Roberts joined the PGA Tour in 1981 after making it through qualifying school but earned only $8,035 in 21 tournaments. He lost his playing privileges and had to go back to Q-School four more times before finally becoming a tour regular.
"I was a late bloomer," said Roberts, who won six of his PGA Tour events after turning 40. He didn't win his first tour event until the 1994 Nestle Invitational when he was 38. He had a sweet tooth for that event, winning it again the following year.
"I've had a nice career," added Roberts, who had his 18th consecutive top-100 money finish and passed $15 million in career earnings at this year's Sony Open.
He already has won three times and earned $1.47 million in just eight tournaments on the Champions Tour since he turned 50 in June.
He's no late bloomer on this tour.