Loren Roberts closes in on leaders
Loren Roberts remained in contention for a record fourth straight Champions Tour victory Saturday, shooting his second straight 2-under 69 to finish three strokes behind the leaders in the Outback Steakhouse Pro-Am.
Defending champion Hale Irwin had a 66 in windy conditions to move into a tie for the lead with 2004 winner Mark McNulty (70) and Mark James (65) at 7-under 135.
Jerry Pate (68) was 6 under, Larry Nelson (69) and Bruce Fleisher (67) followed at 5 under, and Scott Simpson (68), Bobby Wadkins (70), Des Smyth (70) and Gary McCord (71) joined Roberts at 4 under on the TPC of Tampa Bay course.
Roberts, attempting to match Chi Chi Rodriguez's 1987 tour record of four straight victories, won The ACE Group Classic last week in Naples to become the first player to open a season with three consecutive victories. In nine career starts on the tour, the 50-year-old Roberts has four victories, eight top-fives and earnings of $1,714,882.
The 60-year-old Irwin birdied the last two holes.
"I feel like I've left a few out there, but coming in with two birdies on the final two holes sort of eliminates some of that," Irwin said.
The wind was so strong that it blew over an electronic scoreboard on the 18th hole.
"In general, I'm happy with a 70," McNulty said. "The wind is totally different here and I haven't played this course in the wind. I'm obviously pleased with my position and I know what needs to be done."
James birdied Nos. 15 an 16 to reach 7 under.
"I struck it pretty well today," James said. "It's only my second event and last week I was pretty pathetic, so it's a lot better. It was encouraging."
Bruce Lietzke, tied with McNulty for the first-round lead, shot a 74 to fall four strokes back at 3 under.