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Golf Today > Tour Schedules > 2006 > Champions Tour > ACE Group Classic > Round 3


Loren Roberts wins third straight title

Loren Roberts survived a battle on the final hole Sunday to win The ACE Group Classic, becoming the first golfer to open a Champions Tour season with three wins.

Roberts parred the last 12 holes, and 60-year-old Hale Irwin put his approach shot in the water on the closing hole at The Club at TwinEagles.

Playing in the group behind Irwin, Roberts two-putted from 35 feet to clinch the victory with a final-round 69 and 14-under 202 total -- one shot ahead of Brad Bryant and R.W. Eaks.

Bryant birdied the last hole to finish with a 70, and Eaks had a 67 despite missing a birdie putt at the last and. Irwin double-bogeyed No. 18 after hitting a 7-iron from 162 yards into the water in front of the green for a 68, and tied for fourth with Tom Watson (67) at 204.

Don January, in 1981, and Larry Nelson, in 2001, each opened a season on the Champions Tour with two consecutive wins.

"The three wins this year, they've all come different ways," Roberts said. "This one was definitely done with an ugly stick. It was a pretty ugly back nine today, but I holed a couple of putts when I had to."

The record for consecutive victories on the tour is four by Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1987. Roberts, 50, who won his fourth tournament in nine tour events, joins Bob Charles (1987), Lee Trevino (1992), Gil Morgan (1997-98) and Craig Stadler (2004) in winning three consecutive events on the tour.

"I wanted to put a little mark somewhere in the record books," Roberts said. "I did think about that a little bit on the back nine."

Irwin, who has won a record 44 times on the tour, was going for his third victory in Naples. He won in 1998 and 2002, the latter at TwinEagles. Irwin tied for second last year.

"It was a very comfortable distance," said Irwin, who knew the shot was short after he hit it. "The lie was a little tight. The ball was above my feet. I needed to hit it solid and I hit it heavy.

"It was not a difficult shot. I didn't execute it very well. To end with a shot like that, it's going to be a long drive to Tampa (for this week's Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am)."

Roberts was told by caddie Graham Courts after walking to the tee on No. 18.

"I was very surprised," Roberts said. "Hale doesn't make mistakes like that."

Tour rookie Rick Karbowski (71), Fuzzy Zoeller (68), Tom Jenkins (66), and Gary Koch (67) tied with second-round co-leader Don Pooley (72) for sixth at 205.

Roberts, who won $240,000 of the $1.6 million purse, was never out of the lead after getting birdies on three of the first six holes, but couldn't pull away either. Irwin made his charge, getting to one back after a birdie on No. 11. He bogeyed the next hole, but came back with birdies at Nos. 13 and 15 to tie Roberts.

Irwin parred the par-5 17th, leaving his approach 22 feet away from 84 yards. Roberts left a 20-footer just short on No. 16, then salvaged a par on the par-5 17th after driving into a fairway bunker. He hit out to 96 yards, and left his approach 10 feet away, but missed the birdie putt.

Roberts was tied with playing partners Bryant and Pooley entering the final round, but none of the three scored well. Bryant had two birdies and one bogey before his birdie at the last.

"Don and I just really struggled," Bryant said. "I putted poorly, for me, and it's very seldom you see Don putt poorly."


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