Originally created 05/17/99

Roberts' doubts disappear with victory

IRVING, Texas -- Loren Roberts took a good look in the mirror and didn't exactly see the future of golf.

Approaching his 44th birthday, still one of the shortest hitters on the PGA Tour, he began to question whether he could compete in a game seemingly owned by David Duval and Tiger Woods and bracing for the arrival of Sergio Garcia.

On Sunday, Roberts proved he belonged by winning the Byron Nelson Classic in a playoff over Steve Pate.

"Two months ago, I was thinking that maybe I was too old to be out here," Roberts said. "I can't tell you how good this feels. I still have the game to win."

He left no doubt about that.

Roberts made up for his worst swing of the day, which led to a double bogey and cost him the lead, with one of his best -- a 3-iron from 190 yards out into the wind to within 3 feet for birdie. He won with a bunker shot to 2 feet that set up a par on the first playoff hole.

It was his sixth victory on the PGA Tour, and maybe the sweetest. His father, who has spent the past year tending for a wife stricken by Alzheimer's, was in the gallery for the first time in nearly a year and joined Roberts on the 18th green when Nelson presented the trophy.

"I'm so thrilled to have you here," Roberts told him. "I know Mom is watching at home."

Pate, who failed to save par from the bunker on No. 18 in the playoff, was a runner-up for the second time this year. The other was when Duval shot a 59 in the Bob Hope Classic.

"If I can beat everybody in the field by seven shots except for one guy, I'm going to win at some point," said Pate, who closed with a 66.

Roberts, who had a 68, and Pate set the 72-hole tournament record of 262, breaking by one the mark set by Woods (1997) and Ernie Els (1995).

Garcia, the 19-year-old Spanish sensation, made a memorable professional debut in America with a 69 that put left him tied for third at 269 along with U.S. Open champion Lee Janzen, Brian Watts and Chris DiMarco.

Woods finished at 271, having played the final three rounds at even-par after opening with a 61.

The playoff was made possible by one swing from Roberts -- a 5-iron into the water on No. 14 that led to a double bogey, ended his 32-hole streak of par or better or dropped him one stroke behind Pate.

"One bad swing, made it interesting," Roberts said.

One hole later, he laced a 3-iron into 3 feet for birdie -- "One of my best swings of the day," he said -- and the race was on.

They both parred the final three holes to force a playoff. Pate, who made a 5-footer for par on the 72nd hole, missed a 12-footer in the playoff.

"The young guys are not going to be there every week," Roberts said. "I want to be there when they're not."

Garcia wasn't a contender Sunday, but he was no less impressive.

He earned $144,000 and needs only $30,470 more to earn special temporary membership on the PGA Tour, which would give him as many sponsor exemptions as he wants. Garcia's next appearance in America will be in the Memorial Tournament.

"I shot a 69 and I didn't play very well, so I guess that's a good score," Garcia said. "Overall, I had a pretty good week. Texans treated me well."

In return, Garcia gave them a treat by living up to a saying in Spain -- "Suerte o muerte."

Literally, that means "luck or death." The loose translation is to go for broke, which is the very essence of Garcia -- aggressive, fearless, immune to intimidation.

He chipped in for birdie on No. 1, hit a brilliant bump from off the green to save par on the second hole and had the gallery behind him until a double bogey on No. 6 when he drove out of bounds doomed his chances.

But he finished in style with the kind of play reminiscent of Seve Ballesteros. Garcia hit a blind shot from the left rough over the trees and 10 feet behind the pin for a birdie on the last hole.

Woods, who fell out of contention Saturday afternoon with a quadruple-bogey 7 on the 17th hole, wore a game face that suggested eight strokes was not too much to make up. He birdied the first two holes, but also had three bogeys and a double bogey.

"On a day when you need to make a big move, you can't do that," Woods said. "I never really could get it going."

Roberts and Pate made it especially difficult.

Roberts had a two-stroke lead to start the final round, and no one else was closer than four strokes. Pate birdied the first hole, Roberts hit it stiff for birdie on the par-3 second, and it became a two-man race the rest of the way.


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