Roberts, Romero tied for lead in Scotland

7/28/2006 - Golf Loren Roberts Craig Stadler + more

TURNBERRY, Scotland -- Loren Roberts hasn't made a bogey through the first 36 holes of the Senior British Open, where he finds himself tied for the lead at 10-under-par 130 with long-hitting Eduardo Romero, one stroke ahead of Craig Stadler.

"I'm really happy," Roberts said Friday after his second straight 65 on Turnberry's Ailsa course. "The closest I came to a bogey was on the first hole today, and I made a 12-footer for par right out of the gate. It gave me a lift the first few holes."

The worst moment of Roberts' round came at the par-5 17th hole when his errant 3-iron second shot struck spectator Catherine McCrindle, who had been a walking scorer with Roberts' group Thursday, on the top of the head. "[My ball] came clear across the fairway on the other side," said Roberts, "and I thought, 'Oh, my gosh, I've really hurt her badly.' But they took a look at her and said she'll be fine."

As Roberts relaxed after his second round by playing the 12-hole pitch-and-putt course in front of the Turnberry Hotel with his caddie, Graeme Courts, Roberts was 3 under on the Lilliputian links -- he got further word from British television announcer Howard Clark that McCrindle was OK. "I just saw her having lunch in the hotel," Clark told Roberts. "She's fine."

Roberts' game certainly seems in good order midway through the fourth senior major of the year. He began the season with three straight victories but hasn't won since, and he had disappointing final rounds in both the U.S. Senior Open and Ford Senior Players Championship. A week off before coming to Scotland did him some good. "I needed a little refresher," he said. "I've been pushing myself a little hard."

Fifth at last year's Senior British Open, Roberts also is invigorated by the flavor of seaside golf. "I do really like links golf," he said. "I just like all the options it gives you. And I love the fact that a bunker is a bunker. A lot of times guys will get upset if they can't hit a 4-iron out of a [fairway] bunker [onto] the green. It really lends to playing the course more strategically."

Senior golf is a new ball game for Roberts, an eight-time winner on the PGA Tour who didn't claim his first title until he was 38. Since turning 50 last year, he has been a threat almost every week. "I wouldn't say I'm totally comfortable, but being one of the younger players, I feel I should be in the mix every week if I play reasonably well," he said recently. "That's a nice feeling because I never had that my whole career on the regular tour. I was probably like a lot of players: You're playing well enough to win five or six weeks out of the whole year, and you have to get it done those weeks."

The competitive window has opened wider now, and with it has come more confidence. "It's nice to feel standing on the first tee Thursday or Friday morning knowing I'm going to have a shot [at winning]. It's a more confident mind-set. I think that's why you see guys come out [on the Champions Tour] and really, really do well. Like Bruce Fleisher, or Brad Bryant. It's amazing what positive feedback can do for a guy. It can be enough to get him over the hill."

Roberts, whose forte has always been his putting, will be squaring off in the third round against one of the most powerful senior golfers, Romero. Romero, 52, shot a second-round 63 thanks to many short-iron approaches that he hit close. On the 497-yard 17th hole, he cranked a 379-yard drive -- "Longest drive of my life, unbelievable," he said -- and hit a sand-wedge second shot to four feet to set up an eagle.

The skill Roberts has always had has sometimes eluded the Argentine. "I'm focusing on the putter, because that has been my big problem," Romero said. "All my life, [the problem] has been the putter."

Roberts, Romero and the rest of the field have encountered little wind the first two rounds. "Obviously, we've had the kind of weather that if you're hitting the ball well, you're going to play well," Roberts said. "The weather really has not been a factor yet. We'll see what happens on the weekend."

Bill Fields is a senior editor for Golf World magazine.