Kohler, Wis. - When Loren Roberts strides around the Straits Course at Whistling Straits this week, he will do so with a greater sense of purpose.
This is, after all, the U.S. Senior Open and not, say, the Regions Charity Classic. It's a major, the type of championship that elevates a player's career.
"In a major championship, you have to be a little bit sharper if you're going to contend," said Roberts, the reigning Senior British Open champion.
Roberts, 52, has every intention of doing so this week and hopes to end Allen Doyle's two-year stranglehold on the Senior Open Championship Trophy. In his Senior Open debut in 2005, Roberts tied for second; last year he tied for 12
thdespite a third-round 62.
While Roberts expects his mental acumen to be razor sharp, his preparation from a game standpoint will go
|In his last two Senior Opens, Loren Roberts has been in contention until the final round. (John Mummert/USGA)
unchanged. In that regard, this might as well be the Regions Charity Classic.
"I don't prepare any differently than I would for any other tournament," Roberts said. "I still enjoy playing the game and I'm going to prepare the same no matter what tournament it is."
The Senior PGA Championship at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island, S.C., in May could have provided a preview for this week. The Straits Course is not unlike the Ocean Course in that they are of the links-style ilk. As well, should the winds pick up off Lake Michigan, the already stern Straits Course set up under U.S. Golf Association specs could become a brutal examination.
Even worse news for the field is that Jay Haas, who has made the Champions Tour his own personal play toy the past two years with eight wins - including three this season - has a penchant for the course.
"I enjoy playing Whistling Straits," said Haas, who played there during the 2004 PGA Championship. "I didn't know what to expect there, a Scottish look created on a flat piece of ground. But I really did enjoy it. And I thought that it was a great test.
"I didn't play well for about three days, and then the last day kind of fell flat. The wind started kicking up a bit and it was a lot of course for me, then. So hopefully we won't play all the way back like we did then." At the 2004 PGA Championship, Haas shot even par for the week and tied for 37
th. Even par this week may just well crown a champion.
Stuart Hall is a writer for the Golf Press Association whose work has appeared previously on www.ussenioropen.com.