He opened the 2006 season with a rush, winning his first three events on the Champions Tour. All but forgotten was the rep of Roberts the putting wizard. He was rapidly becoming known, simply, as the best player on the senior circuit.
The nickname, he recalls, was one hung on him at the 1994 U.S. Open ' one which he got into a playoff before finally losing ' by one David Ogrin. Roberts came into the locker room after firing a 65. He was talking to a couple of reporters when Ogrin, who used to play the PGA Tour, sauntered past.
He (Ogrin) used that term, Boss of the Moss, to describe me, and the next day it was in the papers. And it stuck all those years, said Roberts.
I dont mind the nickname. If youve got to be known as something ' and out here you tend to get nicknames a lot ' its about as good a name as you can get. If Im going to be known for something, I guess that (the putting) is as good as anything.
Since that opening three-tournament rush this year, Roberts has cooled off somewhat. He has played eight events on the Champions Tour over-all, and while he hasnt won again, he hasnt finished out of the top 10 yet. In his last outing, the Boeing Championship two weeks ago, he finished tied for third.
And, as befits his talents, he is the top-ranked putter on the Champions Tour.
I just feel fortunate that I can do one part of the game pretty well (putting), said Roberts, who is still ranked No. 1 on the Champions money ranking. I think guys who do well ' on either of the tours ' are guys who do one thing pretty well. I feel fortunate that Ive had a pretty good putter for a lot of years.
You know, an old adage is that if youre going to play a match against another twosome, youre going to pick a partner every time who maybe isnt the best ball-striker, but is a good putter.
Roberts probably picked up his putting skills when he was in his 20s and an assistant pro in a small California town. After the morning rush, he had nothing to do except make sandwiches for golfers making the nine-hole turn ' and putt. After many long, long hours of rolling the ball, he became quite proficient at it.
The way I do it (putting) is simply the way I do it, and its the way Ive been doing it for 25 years, he said. Obviously, I think vision plays a part in it. And Ive been real lucky in that I have very good eyesight, as opposed to some of the guys who have struggled a little bit. I still have 20-20 eyesight. I think your visual capability plays a very big part in it.
My whole key has been speed control, and I just feel that if you just focus on that aspect, you are never going to really putt badly. If you get on a green - no matter where you are ' and you dont two-putt, youre going to save a couple of shots a round.
In fact, Roberts says that has been the secret to his successful career ' keep the ball in play, manage to hit most of the greens, and then sneak in a long putt or two during a typical round.
If you can just make one long one a round, and make a 10-footer once or twice, you can shoot 4-under-par, he said. If you have proper speed control, youre never very far off.
Roberts, in his second season on the Champions Tour after coming in at mid-season last year, has played three times on the regular tour this year and made the cut twice. And yet, he said, the Champions Tour has become his main focus. Unlike a few others, the regular tour is just a diversion. He is still quite excited about this experience which is still quite new to him.
Its exciting to be out here, he said, because everything is new, I dont know what to expect. Youre kind of excited about seeing the golf courses, seeing the challenges and the like.
And, Ive enjoyed seeing guys that I really havent seen the last 5, 6, 8, 10 years. The community out here, the players, seems to be much tighter out here than the other tour.
And besides, this thing about Champions Tour majors has become a really big challenge. Give him the senior majors, give him a win in the Senior PGA Championship this week, and he will gladly give up the moniker Boss of the Moss.
The next two or three years are my big focus out here, to try to win those major championships, he said. Im excited about the courses were playing this year. Im really excited.