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July 5, 2006

Loren Roberts


RAND JERRIS: Loren Roberts, it's a pleasure to welcome you to the interview room this afternoon. Loren is playing in his second United States 2006 U.S. Senior Open championship this week at Prairie Dunes. Loren, you've long been known as one of the better putters out here on the PGA TOUR, and now on the Champions Tour. Talk a little bit about the greens here at Prairie Dunes and what you think it's going to take to be successful on these greens.

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I would imagine there's probably been a lot of talk from a lot of players about the greens here. But obviously everybody in the field, if they have never seen the golf course before, knew of its pedigree before they got here. And I think that this I know it's a Top 50 golf course. It probably deserves to be a top 10.

And that's just simply because the greens are small. They are so undulating, you need to drive it straight, you need to play the right spots of the greens and you need to have a great imagination.

I would think that if you were to have greens that are typical Open speed that we'll think about maybe 10 and a half, 11 on the Stimp. But it would be hard to even finish the round here. So I think that the speed of the greens, from my perspective, is probably right right now. It's correct. Because of all of the slopes and the difficulty of chipping the ball and getting it near the hole.

RAND JERRIS: What are the unique features of the golf course that most of the greens antes are raised on the top of the dunes? And if the wind starts to pick up, would you talk a little bit about playing in the wind, issues about keeping your balance, keeping your focus, particularly off the tee or on the greens?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think it's 6,600 yards this week. At 6,600, obviously you don't have to hit a whole lot of drivers off the tee. I think this is going to be a golf course where you're going to see a lot of guys hitting fairway woods, probably hitting a lot of rescue type clubs off the tee. The whole thing is to put the ball in the fairway.

You got a lot of very undulating fairways. You're going to be playing off a lot of side hill, downhill lie, uphill lies. When you figure wind into that equation you're really going to have to pay attention and think your way around the golf course. I would think that just about on every hole that you would probably want to aim somewhere in the first five to eight yards of the green and be happy to just kind of put the ball there and just try to putt from there. That would be my approach that especially if the ball if it's windy out here you need to get the ball in the front part of the greens and then just go from there.

RAND JERRIS: Are there particular holes that you picked out that you feel like you could attack them, that there may be some scoring opportunities?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think if the wind were to stay out of the north, 17, obviously the par 5 is going to be a birdie hole if you can drive it in the fairway there. It's just down wind it makes it such a tough tee shot to get in the fairway.

But I would think that you need to play conservatively there with a 2 or 3 iron, maybe even off the tee down wind, and play another 4 or 5 iron and have a wedge in there.

I would think probably the 7th hole, especially if the wind turns around and blows out of the south and you look at a 3 wood off the tee and probably a 4 iron to the green. So that's a real birdie hole right there. I think right off the bat the first couple of holes, first three holes, are real birdie holes.

So I think if you're teeing off on the front nine, I think that getting out of the gate here is very important. There's three pretty good birdie opportunities the first three holes. You would kind of need to take advantage of those.

RAND JERRIS: Okay. Thank you. Take some questions, please.

Q. Is there any added pressure on you knowing that you're one of the top players on the Champions Tour thus far this year, and going into this tournament you're one of the favorites?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, probably well, added pressure would be just the pressure that I put on myself. But obviously I really, really like this golf course. I heard about it for so many years. The old golf professional that taught me how to play, this was his favorite golf course. And I've been looking forward to coming here for years, as soon as it was announced. So other than the pressure I put on myself, I really don't think so. Out here in a U.S. Open championship you never know what you're going to get. Anybody can win. Especially on a venue like this. Everybody's in the game here if you can put the ball in the fairway off the tee, I think.

Q. Last year you were in contention to win. What are your reflections about last year and walking away with that disappointment, knowing that you almost had victory?

LOREN ROBERTS: Yeah, that last year was a disappointment to me, obviously. To get a one shot lead through 10 holes and then make a double bogey with a sand wedge in your hand, that's going to leave a bad taste in your mouth. But I had some chances to make some birdies coming in after that, and I just couldn't get it done.

So I would like to be in a little better form than I am right now for this week, but you never know. We'll see what happens when I get to the range tomorrow morning.

Q. How much luck is going to be involved in winning this week?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, that's a great question. Because usually you know you always say if you got 150 players it's probably going to be about 60 of them that are going to hit it good enough. And out of that 60, there's probably going to be about 30 that are going to putt good enough. And out of that 30, there's usually one that's lucky enough. And that's usually the way it works.

And I think you're going to have to have a little bit of luck. You're going to have to get a couple of right bounces. You're going to have to pick the wrong club and just happen to thin it or miss it and it turns out right. Those kind of things are just going to have to happen for the guy to win here.

I think luck does play a certain amount in it. Especially on a venue like this where you just really don't know some of the bounces that you're going to get primarily in the fairways.

Q. Switching gears here a little bit, can you talk about making the transition from the PGA TOUR to the Champions Tour? You got someone like Fred Funk who is still playing solid on the PGA TOUR, and now he's kind of viewed as a favorite coming on the Champions Tour, but it doesn't always work out that way.

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think that if you stay competitive obviously, like Fred has on the PGA TOUR, I think that automatically would make you a favorite. Whether you play the PGA TOUR or you play the Champions Tour or you play senior events, it still boils down to the person who makes the most putts wins the golf tournament usually.

And if you have a great putting week, you're going to have a real good chance to win. Fred almost won in New Orleans this year because he putted extremely well on Sunday. And that is what you're going to need to do to win here. When I say putt well on this golf course, what I am talking about is you're going to have to make a lot of really good two putts. It's extremely difficult to get the ball in that six to eight foot range to have a really what I would call a makeable birdie putt.

Because once you get out six, eight, ten feet, you have an awful lot of break to the putts. You really do. I mean, it's hard to get a putt that's over 10 feet that doesn't have some pretty good movement to it. So you're going to be looking at trying to 2 putt and when you do happen to get one in there with a wedge in your hand and get it inside that ten feet or eight feet, six feet, you're going to have to make them. So you're going to have to have a really good putting week for getting the ball close and I envision a lot of guys and I plan on using the putter from over the green a lot here. Because there are a lot of shaved surfaces and it's really hard to get a consistent bounce and check with wedges with all the different slopes that you have.

Q. You indicated that maybe you're not coming into this championship in the best shape in your game. Can you talk about what exactly is going on with your game?

LOREN ROBERTS: I'm just trying to block out one side of the golf course right now. I'm sure there's 150 guys here that aren't satisfied with how they're hitting it right now. I would like to be playing a little better. Obviously I would like to be playing as well as I was the first part of the year. But it's a long year. I'm hopeful that I can just go out and think my way around, because I think it's the kind of golf course that you don't have to really hit it really flush.

I think it's a golf course where you have to hit it one direction all the time. Doesn't necessarily mean you have to hit it perfectly solid, but you have to hit it where you're looking and you have to be able to block out one side of the golf course.

Q. So if we're standing behind you on the tee, what side of the golf are you trying to block out?

LOREN ROBERTS: Right now the left side of the golf course I'm trying to take out.

Q. On the other end of the equation you obviously have been known as one of the better putters both on the PGA TOUR and out here. How do you feel that part of your game is doing?

LOREN ROBERTS: I like the way I'm rolling the ball right now. I do. So just a matter of getting the speed down. I think that a lot of guys are having to adjust a little bit to the little slower speeds, but I think we're all happy that the speed of the greens is probably a little bit slower.

RAND JERRIS: On a lot of Major championship courses obviously the rough is severe. You miss the fairway, you lose a shot, and pitch back to the fairway. Here you got this extreme rough where you're looking at lost balls, unplayables. How do you do you adjust the way you attack the golf course knowing that at any point a really big number is a possibility for a shot that's played wayward.

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I mean, obviously you got some grass where you're not going to find it if you hit it that wayward. But I think by and large you got enough room to hit the ball. The waist high stuff is pretty far out there. We're talking about a golf course that's 6,600 yards.

I mean, you don't have to hit driver on any of the golf holes out here. Maybe the fifth hole if the wind is blowing out of the south you got to hit driver. But that's the only hole really on the front nine that you really have it to think about hitting driver on. Maybe the ninth hole. If you get on the back nine, probably it's, let's see, about 13, you might hit driver on that tee.

Other than that, I really don't see a lot of other holes that you really have to hit a lot of drivers on. So the key is putting it in the fairway and just playing smart.

Q. Kind of a little different question here, winning a Major out here, or winning in any event out here. How much does that mean to you versus if you were winning a PGA TOUR event or a Major in any event out there, it's a Major, it's a Champions Tour a Senior Major. Seems to be so many of them. Just how important is that in comparison to another victory somewhere else?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, it's now that I'm over 50, I mean, this is the TOUR that I play. This is a Major to me. Obviously, we realize that the Majors on the PGA TOUR are how you want to classify them. They're bigger Majors. I mean, there's no question about that. But this is where we play now.

I look at for myself, this is where I play now and I still want to win Majors. I played the regular Tour for 24, 25 years, this, if you talk about Champions Tour golf, this is the greatest mulligan in life of any sport that I know. And I enjoy playing golf. I can't speak for a lot of these other guys, but know I enjoy playing golf competing and being out there playing. And I think a lot of guys who play out here are probably not as anal as they used to be on the golf course just because this is a second time around. You've been there, done that. It's time to have fun playing golf. At least that's the way I'm looking at that time.

Q. Just to follow up, if you could have won FedEx versus Jeff Maggert this year, would that have been about as good as it could have gotten for you?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well obviously outside of winning a Major on the regular TOUR I would have always have loved to win a tournament in Memphis in my hometown, I mean that's what you dream about doing. I would have loved to have won any tournament on the TOUR. But this is my TOUR now.

Q. Wondering what have you learned on this TOUR compared to the PGA TOUR, I know you've only been on for a year, what things are different compared to that?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think I probably just answered most of that question for me in that guys, you know, this is like a second chance. Guys are, we have had our careers on the Regular Tour. If you look at somebody like Jerry Pate who won a Major, Larry Nelson, I mean guys who have won Majors on the Regular Tour, now it's like golf's fun. Guys have had careers doing other things and I think Jerry Pate is a prime example, okay. He's had a life other than playing the Regular Tour and been very successful at it. Now he's got a chance to play and compete again, I don't know of anybody else who is loving it more out here than him right now. So I think that it's, I think he's a great poster child for what's great about golf after 50.

Q. Because it's such a limited window out here, not just this event, but just in general, does it feel more pressure because it is such a limited window to get your chance to win out her or succeed out here?

LOREN ROBERTS: What do they say, you got five years. Yeah, I look at it like I got five years to play, I guess. I feel like I've been pretty doggone fortunate for me in my career because I feel like I came along and played at a time when golf really got good. Able to take advantage of a lot of the things that Tiger Woods and Phil have probably done about bringing money into the game, was able to take advantage of a lot of the increased purses and still stay competitive until I was 50 and then this TOUR is here, which I think is going to get nothing but better with guys coming out like Nick Price. I wish we could get Greg Norman to play a little bit more. I just think this is, I couldn't be more thrilled to death with what's happening out here, regardless of how long I can stay competitive out here.

Q. Do you think it would take a guy like, I guess Tiger Woods wouldn't be the best example, but somebody of his stature to really take the Champions Tour to another level or do you need guys like Norman and some of the other guys if the in the last few years that joined the Champions Tour to maybe win more like you're doing yourself.

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think that the more guys that we can get like Fred Couples and Nick Price and Greg, if they would come out and play, I think they would really add a lot to what we call senior golf or whatever. I think it would just really add a lot to it. There's been a lot more guys that have stayed competitive on the Regular Tour until into their mid 40, even late 40s, I think it would just would be great for the Champions Tour to have the guys playing. But if you talk about someone like Tiger Woods who is 30 years old, he's got 20 years to ago, I mean how many years is he going to want to be in the game and be as prepared. He and Vijay, I don't know how much time they put into it, but to get ready to play, but the amount of time that they put in to be competitive in what they want to do, is somebody going to want to do that. Tiger's been doing it for nine years, is he going to want to do that for another 20 years? I don't know.

Q. Juli Inkster won the Women's Open four years ago, I think she didn't 3 putt a green and she led the tournament in putting. Kind of getting back to putting, do you think that's the biggest key to what will unfold this weekend?

LOREN ROBERTS: Without question. If you can go 72 holes and not 3 putt, provided you're hitting the ball reasonably well, I think you're going to have a great week. Anywhere. Doesn't matter what kind of especially in an Open Championship. If you go 72 holes without a 3 putt, I mean you're generally pretty much going to be in there.

Q. Who would you expect to see top the leaderboard contending on Sunday?

LOREN ROBERTS: I wouldn't be surprised to see Hale Irwin. Perfect golf course for him. Doesn't make mistakes mentally on the golf course. I played nine holes today on the golf course and he played in the group right behind me, obviously I paid attention to what he was doing behind me. Drove it in the middle of every fairway. So I would look to see, I think Fred Funk will be competitive. Hopefully I'll be competitive. Obviously Dana's playing well. He won last week. Hitting the ball great. But I would look at Hale this week, probably.

Q. Now that's you saying that Hale will be considered a favorite, Jay Haas said Dana and Gill would be two guys he would look to. If there's a five year window, it doesn't exist for those guys particularly, does it? I mean this isn't limited to 50, 51, 52 year olds winning by any stretch, is it?

LOREN ROBERTS: Well, I think obviously if you look at Hale Irwin, he's the exception to the rule. I mean, he's kept himself physically fit. He's, I don't know a guy that's more competitive that I've ever met than Hale Irwin. If I just look at him and I look at the golf course, it's pretty good chance there. I think that he could be one of the favorites. I really do.

RAND JERRIS: Loren, thanks for your time this afternoon, wish you luck this week.

LOREN ROBERTS: All right. Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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