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Roberts reflects on Oakmont, Round 1 play in Senior Players championship at Fox Chapel

| Thursday, June 26, 2014, 8:33 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Loren Roberts lines up a put on the 15th green during the first round of the Senior Players Championship on Thursday, June 26, 2014, at Fox Chapel Golf Club.

A little more than 20 years ago, Loren Roberts had one of his most bittersweet weekends as a professional golfer.

Roberts, now 59, and his sweet putting stroke were right in the mix to win the 1994 U.S. Open at Oakmont Country Club.

With just one PGA Tour victory under his belt — the 1994 Nestle Invitational — Roberts battled to the end with Ernie Els and Colin Montgomerie. Even an 18-hole Monday playoff wasn't enough, with Els and Roberts needing two additional sudden-death holes before Els claimed his first of four major trophies.

That day, Roberts almost could taste his first major victory in wound up in second place, or what remains his best finish in a major championship.

Back in western Pennsylvania on Thursday for the first round of the Senior Players Championship at Fox Chapel Golf Club, Roberts was quickly shaping up to be a major disappointment.

A drive down the middle of the fairway on No. 1 was negated by a three-putt bogey from within 20 feet. A hole later, the man nicknamed the “Boss of the Moss” uncharacteristically struggled on the green, three-putting again on No. 2 to save par.

“The start I got off to, I could've just cashed in,” Roberts said. “You know, putting is kind of my deal, so when I consider that start, I consider it 2-over.”

Instead, Roberts settled down, and the shots fell favorably. He birdied Nos. 5, 6 and 18 and didn't bogey again to finish with a 2-under-par 68 and stay within four shots of the Senior Players lead.

He also had the best day among 1994 U.S. Open playoff participants. Montgomerie jumped out to a 5-under front nine, but he bogeyed four of his final six holes to finish a shot back of Roberts.

Looking back on his star-crossed weekend at Oakmont, Roberts said his memories are positive, though much has changed in 20 years.

“(Oakmont club pro) Bob Ford's always nice to me and lets me come over and have dinner and walk around in the locker room,” he said. “But I've gone over and gone around the golf course. It's a much, much harder golf course now.”

And despite two Schwab Cups — earned in 2007 and 2009 — and four Champions Tour major championships to his credit since he joined in 2005, it has been a trying year for Roberts.

He ranks 48th on the 2014 Champions Tour money list and has finished in the top 10 just once in 12 starts.

But given his past in western Pennsylvania, Roberts remains optimistic he can stay in the hunt at Fox Chapel.

“I'm going to have to dial in a low one in the next couple days, that's for sure,” he said. “It's a work in progress. I'm only 59 and I'm a work in progress.”

Andrew Erickson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at aerickson@tribweb.com.

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