||Before the rain hit Wednesday, Loren Roberts got in one last practice round. (John Mummert/USGA)
Carmel, Ind. - We all make mistakes and Loren Roberts readily admits to the error he made last week at Sunningdale Golf Club in Berkshire, England.
"I kind of screwed up," said Roberts, with a wry smile. "I won the Senior British, and that gets me in the regular British next year. So I've got to retract the statement."
The statement Roberts alludes to came at the recent U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, in which he competed. As he was on his way to a tie for 24th in his third PGA Tour appearance of the season, the 54-year old Roberts told reporters he was finished playing regular tour events.
Scratch that. He will be playing in at least one more regular tour event. A victory in the Senior British comes with an exemption into the following year's regular British Open, which will be played on the Old Course at St. Andrews in 2010. Of course, Roberts will accept the gratuity.
"It would be an insult not to," said Roberts who has eight PGA Tour titles and 10 Champions Tour wins. "How could you not look forward to going back to the Old Course. I mean, that's kind of where it is for all us golfers, as you know."
Maybe Roberts will screw up again at Crooked Stick. Likewise, a victory in the U.S. Senior Open comes with an automatic invite to the next U.S. Open. After a soggy week at Bethpage Black last month, the USGA's crown jewel event will be played at Pebble Beach in 2010 - another one that would be tough to turn down.
But Roberts must deal with considerable culture shock this week, not to mention some jet lag. Sunningdale and Crooked Stick golf clubs are about as comparable to the Tom and Jerry cartoon characters. They are two entirely different species.
"Obviously, the rough is a big difference, and just the whole style of the golf course," said Roberts, who now has two Senior British Open titles (2006 and '09) to his name. "Obviously, there's a lot more water and we're playing a lot more length (here), too. It played hard and fast today. We'll see what the rain does to it over this evening and tomorrow a little bit.
"It's probably the strongest course that I've seen for the Senior U.S. Open, in the five that I've played, as far as length, difficulty of shots and difficulty of greens."
On the other hand, the "Boss of the Moss" might be on a roll, so to speak. After finding his putting stroke in Milwaukee, Roberts packed it up and carried it overseas to Berkshire. "Obviously, you guys know for me, I'm usually not going to beat anybody with my ball-striking," he said. "I'm going to do it with the putter. I got my putter going and that really helped me last week."
Roberts, who also won the ACE Group Classic earlier this season, shot four rounds in the 60s and averaged 28.5 putts per round at Sunningdale. Earlier this year, knowing the two Opens would be played on consecutive weeks, he did something he doesn't normally do. He visited Crooked Stick ahead of time and played a couple of practice rounds.
Roberts played relatively well in the 1991 PGA Championship at Crooked Stick, tying for 27th. He wanted to get re-acquainted with the layout. "This is a big golf course," Roberts said, "and I knew this course – remembered it from 1991 – as being, 'tricky' is probably not the word, but there's just a lot to see.
"The greens have a lot of slopes and you have to really pay attention to little intricacies of this golf course, because there are a lot them. It was very helpful for me to come up and spend two days up here looking at the golf course."
Whether it translates into back-to-back major wins for Roberts, whether he will need to expand a PGA Tour schedule he was done with for 2010 is anyone's guess. But with the Senior British already in his holster, Roberts won't be fretting it.
"I feel pretty good to, to be honest with you," said Roberts, referring to the quick, cross-continental turnover. "Somebody asked me that on the golf course today and kind of tongue in cheek I said, 'Any day on the golf course is a pretty good day. I don't care where you're at.' "
Make no mistake about it.
Phillip Howley is a freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.