Loren Roberts refines short game to win Toshiba

NEWPORT BEACH - It had been 33 starts that Loren Roberts had gone without a win on the Champions Tour. The 56-year-old who won eight times on the PGA Tour was starting to worry a bit if he could become a champion once again.

He studied film to refine his short game last week and came to Newport Beach ready to reacquaint himself with poa annua greens.

Twenty-five to 30 mile-per-hour winds brushed through Newport Beach Country Club for the final round of the 18th Toshiba Classic on Sunday.

Roberts used a hot start and a strong finish on No. 18 to blow away the opposition. His putter also helped him grab his 13th win on the Champions Tour, his first since June 27, 2010 after shooting an eight-under-par 205.

Roberts, 56, won by two strokes. He sank a birdie putt from five feet on the 510-yard, par-5 18th hole to card a two-under 69 on his final round and collect the $262,500 winner’s check.

Mark Calcavecchia, who had a two-shot lead after two rounds, along with Tom Kite and Bernhard Langer tied for second at 6-under.

“Last year, I was getting a little hacked off at my [short] game,” said Roberts, a two-time Charles Schwab Cup champion. “I wasn’t happy where I was hitting it and I was starting to force it a little bit. My whole game is putting. I hit it good enough, but I gotta putt. I was struggling with the putter last year to be honest.”

Roberts said he made a big change last week while studying film. He noticed when he was putting well, the shaft would lean at impact. But lately the lean was inaccurate, he said. He saw he needed to readjust.

“I really rolled some putts on these greens good today,” Roberts said. “They rolled and went right where I was looking and that’s what won the tournament for me.”

Roberts birdied Nos. 1, 2 and 4 to grab a two-shot lead after starting two shots back. His lead grew to four shots after his birdie on the 549-yard par-5 No. 13, but dwindled to one after he got into some trouble with bogeys on three of the next four holes.

He left the door open, but no one jumped on the opportunity. Roberts walked to No. 18 with a one-shot lead and later rolled in his sixth birdie of his round and 15th of the 54-hole tournament.

Bernhard Langer’s double-bogey on the par-3 No. 17 caused some regret for the two-time Masters champion who won the Toshiba in 2008. His birdie putt rolled into the bunker and it took him two shots to recover.

Calcavecchia nearly put pressure on Roberts, but missed a 10-foot eagle putt on No. 18 and settled for a birdie.

“Once he missed that eagle putt, and I was five feet out of the hole, I knew it was my tournament,” Roberts said. “But it was nice to knock it in and win by two.”

Roberts said the wind caused challenges even with his putting. Langer also acknowledged the rough wind.

“It was dangerous out there,” Langer said. “I saw a big branch come down. If anybody would have stood there they would have been knocked out. Somebody else got a branch on the top of their head. There were things flying all over the place.”

Fred Couples, who played with the leaders in the final round and started two shots back, double-bogeyed No. 16 and finished tied for eighth at -4.

Nick Price, last year’s champion, finished tied for 19th at -1.

Brad Bryant had the best final round with a five-under 66 and was one of just 18 players who finished below par in the wind. The final-round scoring average, 73.089, was the highest average for a round in tournament history. The previous high was 72.974 in the first round in 2000.


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