Haas Roberts Resume Their Duel in Hawaii

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MasterCard ChampionshipKA'UPULEHU-KONA, Hawaii -- Jay Haas stepped up last season just when it seemed as if Loren Roberts was hoisting a trophy every week.
 
Haas won four events on the Champions Tour, including three straight, edging Roberts for the $1 million Charles Schwab Cup and the money title.
 
'It was a hard-fought year. Jay and I were going at it all year long, back and forth,' said Roberts, who won his first three starts.
 
'I'm not going to look at it as a disappointment. Obviously, I would've liked to have won the Schwab Cup, but we had a great battle.'
 
They will resume their duel Friday at the MasterCard Championship, the first of 29 Champions Tour events this season.
 
'Hopefully, Loren won't get such a big lead like he did last year,' Haas said. 'He played awfully well.'
 
The 54-hole, $1.7 million event is being played at Hualalai, known for its generous greens, reachable par-5s and black lava rock surroundings. No winner has ever had a round of 70 or higher in the last six years.
 
'I feel when I step on the first tee tomorrow, I'm going to have to be firing at the flags all day,' Haas said.
 
Last year, Roberts made a 30-foot birdie putt on the final hole for a course-record 11-under 61 and a one-stroke victory over Don Pooley. Roberts had a 25-under 191 total to break the tour record for relation to par in a 54-hole event and tie the stroke mark. He also broke the record for birdies in a three-round tournament with 26.
 
Roberts made it a Hawaiian sweep, taking the Turtle Bay Championship. He also won the ACE Group Classic to become the first Champions Tour player to win the first three events of the season. His fourth win came at the Senior British Open.
 
Nicknamed the 'Boss of the Moss' for his sweet putting, Roberts had 18 top-10 finishes.
 
'The first part of the year, I did everything right,' he said. 'I putted really well. I think I probably got a little tired by the end of the year.'
 
Haas, who tied for third at the MasterCard, won the Senior PGA Championship en route to his career-best $2,420,227, claiming the money title by $54,832. He had 16 top-10 finishes and won the Schwab Cup by 20 points when Roberts missed a short par putt on No. 18 at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship.
 
'I know the window of opportunity is closing fast, so I don't want to live on what happened last year,' Haas said. 'I want to continue to go forward.
 
'There's a target on a lot of guys' backs. There's some studs out here this year. If you start guarding one or two people, four or five others are going to pass right by.'
 
Haas, who turned 53 in December, said he's pretty much done with the regular tour and plans to play about two dozen tournaments on the 50-and-over circuit.
 
'Thirty years. I think that's enough,' he said. 'I enjoy it. I played seven events (last year), but I just didn't play as well as I wanted to.'
 
The 51-year-old Roberts, meanwhile, has spent the offseason working out with a trainer, lifting weights and running.
 
'I want to play a few more events on the regular tour just to kind of get it over with -- so I'm not tempted,' he said.
 
But he skipped the Sony Open in Honolulu last week to play in the Champions Skins Game at Wailea, where he teamed with Arnold Palmer.
 
'I wasn't going to turn down a chance to be with the legends,' Roberts said. 'No way I was going to turn that down.'
 
The 41-player MasterCard field includes major champions from the last five years and other tournament winners in the last two years, plus invitees Gary Player, Ben Crenshaw, Raymond Floyd and Lanny Wadkins.
 
Among the players to watch are Hale Irwin and Dana Quigley.
 
Quigley won the MasterCard in 2003 and '05 and was a runner-up in '00 and '04. He also has a string of 14 straight scores in the 60s at Hualalai.
 
Irwin is trying to get back on track after going winless for the first time in 12 seasons. If there's a state to turn it around, it's Hawaii where Irwin has won six times on the senior tour and once on the regular tour.
 
DIVOTS
Gary and Vivienne Player will celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary Friday. The two met at Virginia Park Golf Club in Johannesburg, South Africa, where Vivienne worked part-time at the pro shop. Before competing in the 1957 Ampol Golf Tournament in Australia, Player declared he would marry Vivienne if he won. And he did. They have six children and 18 grandchildren. 'Behind every successful man is a woman,' Player said. 'But behind every successful professional golfer is an exceptional woman.'
 
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