Roberts continues to go low
By Ann Miller
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Ann Miller
KAHUKU Loren Roberts, who blew away the course to win last week on the Big Island, showed the same sizzle yesterday when he opened with a 6-under-par 66 at a wet and windy Palmer Course in the opening round of the Turtle Bay Championship.
It is the lowest opening round since the event moved to Turtle Bay in 2001, but only the third-lowest for Roberts on the Champions Tour this season.
He opened with a 63 in the MasterCard Championship at Hualalai last week, and closed with a course-record 61 and Champions Tour scoring record of 25-under par. He is 31-under in his second senior season, with 33 birdies.
"This is probably, ball-striking wise, the best of the four rounds," Roberts said. "Just because of the conditions. Obviously I feel comfortable and good with the way I'm swinging. I'm not having to make a lot of swing thoughts. I'm basically just getting up there and seeing the shot and going ahead and ripping at it.
"But there's always tomorrow. You don't know what the weather is going to do here and obviously that's the defense for the golf course."
Bruce Summerhays is a shot back in the Champions' first full-field event. Don Pooley, who lost last week despite going 24-under, was the first to get to 5-under after chipping in for eagle at the ninth yesterday. He played the back nine in 1-over to fall two back.
When Summerhays shot 67 last week, under brilliant Big Island conditions, he barely broke even.
"That was the median score last week, right in the middle," said Summerhays, who had a trio of "2s" on his card but didn't birdie a par-5. "A 67 here is like shooting 63 last week. ... That's the difference, and the difference is probably the wind."
The remnants of this week's rain and persistent wind helped transform Turtle Bay into a tougher, more typical Hawaiian golf challenge, complete with winter rules that allowed players to clean and place the ball on the fairway. Blustery conditions winds kicked up to 35 mph blew familiar faces to the front.
Surprisingly, Hale Irwin was not one. The man who has won eight tour events in Hawai'i including this tournament the last five years and represented local courses much of his career, shot a birdie-free 73. It was only the second over-par round he has at this event.
Don't count him out. Irwin is the only player who has won this tournament after an opening round in the 70s, and he won by four after starting with a 71 in 2000.
Former Kailua resident and Hawai'i State Open champion Scott Simpson is tied for fourth with Jim Thorpe, Mark Johnson and Kiyoshi Murota. The second shot of Simpson's first full senior season zeroed in on the first hole from 167 yards out for eagle.
"I looked at (playing partner) Morris Hatalsky and told him there's two ways to look at this," said Simpson, the 1987 U.S. Open champion. "First, what a great way to start the year. Or, there's nothing to do but go downhill from here."
Murota, a two-time Hawai'i Pearl Open champion, birdied three of the final four in his first Champions event. He and Hawai'i's David Ishii who rallied for a 73 both enjoyed highly successful careers on the Japan tour, turned 50 last year and received sponsor's exemptions. After an admittedly nervous start, Murota made the most of his opportunity.
"This tournament has many superstars," the Nippon Sports Science University graduate said. "I come here every year for the Pearl Open because it's very enjoyable so I just want to enjoy this tournament like I enjoy the Pearl Open."
Roberts is enjoying his Hawaiian vacation immensely. He tied for 18th at the Sony Open in Hawai'i before winning last week. Yesterday he took apart Turtle Bay with a swing so solid the ball cut through the wind and a stroke so pure he never three-putted the massive greens.
Roberts led the field in putting last week, and the "Boss of the Moss" is one of the premier putters in the game. He had four birdie putts from outside 12 feet yesterday, including one he admitted to misreading badly. He characterized two eight-foot par putts as keys to his round.
"When you're putting well it really takes a lot of pressure off your game," said Roberts, who will be one of captain Tom Lehman's assistants at the Ryder Cup. "It's not the birdie putts that are key. On tough days like this, it's really the par putts that are the key ones."
The scoring average last week was 67.981. Yesterday it was 73.218. Last year's opening round at Turtle Bay had an average of 71.885.
Gil Morgan played his first nine of the year in 5-over 41 last week. He was 25-under on his last 45 holes at Hualalai and tied for fifth. Yesterday, Morgan shot 39-3473
Tom Purtzer withdrew from the tournament with a bad back and was replaced by alternate Jim Chancey.
SBS OPEN WILL INCLUDE CREAMER, PRESSEL
Six of last year's Top 10 money winners and three Hall of Famers are on the first commitment sheet for the LPGA's SBS Open at Turtle Bay, which will be back at the Palmer Course Feb. 16 to 18.
So far, the first full-field event of the year will feature Paula Creamer, Lorena Ochoa, Jeong Jang, Natalie Gulbis, Meena Lee and Hee-Won Han off the top of last year's money list. Hall of Famers Juli Inkster, Patty Sheehan and Karrie Webb have also committed, along with Turtle Bay's Dorothy Delasin, former Rainbow Wahine Cindy Rarick, Morgan Pressel and Grace Park.
Defending champion Jennifer Rosales is also on the list but neither of the 2005 runners-up Hawai'i 16-year-old Michelle Wie and Cristie Kerr, who was third on the money list have committed yet.
Wie has committed to the Fields Open in Hawai'i, which is the following week (Feb. 23 to 25) at Ko Olina.
Reach Ann Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.