Loren Roberts is just coming into his prime.
Three weeks after his 45th birthday, Roberts won his second Greater Milwaukee Open on Sunday with the lowest overall score and the biggest victory margin ever recorded in the event.
He called the tournament the best four days of his career, particularly because it came at a time when most players are losing their games instead of finding them. Playing with remarkable consistency and unusual flair over the final two days, Roberts beat Franklin Langham by eight strokes.
"This was a huge victory for me, at 45 years old, playing against (golfers in their) 20s and 30s," Roberts said. "I can't tell you what this means to me. I'm not going to forget this one for a long time."
Roberts is known throughout the world as the game's best putter, but few fans realize he didn't play golf until he was 17. He was a club pro for five years, and he went to Q School five times before making the PGA Tour full-time.
His first career victory came in 1994, when he was 38. His victory on Sunday was his seventh, and his first since last year's Byron Nelson Classic. He tied for third in this year's Masters and finished eighth in the U.S. Open.
"I'm a late starter, always have been," said Roberts, the oldest player to win on tour this year. "I'm always a little behind the curve."
He was way ahead of the curve on Sunday, when he shot a 5-under-par 66 to set the 72-hole tournament record of 260. He broke the mark set last year by Carlos Franco (264), and he also bested Ken Green's six-shot record margin of victory in 1988.
With his sixth top-10 finish of the year, Roberts became the second-oldest GMO champion. The victory also gave him 900,000 Presidents Cup points, putting him among the top-10.
He even briefly challenged John Huston's tour record for lowest score in relation to par, but two pars and a bogey on the final three holes left Roberts at 24 under, four strokes shy of the 28-under Huston posted in the 1998 Hawaiian Open.
He admitted to a bit of relaxation while playing the final holes with an insurmountable lead. He acknowledged his cheering galleries and engaged in some smiling banter with his caddy and playing partners Langham and Frank Lickliter.
"There's nothing better than standing on the last hole and having a nine-shot lead," he said with a grin.
Roberts, the 1996 GMO champion who was playing in the tournament for the 18th time, added $450,000 to his career winnings in Milwaukee, which were already more than any other player
He tore up Brown Deer Park for the fourth straight day, making 25 birdies and one eagle over the four-day event for scores of 65-66-63-66. The short, immaculately maintained course perfectly suits Roberts' game, and it showed.
With his meager drives and his reliance on precision, Roberts doesn't draw much attention at the tour's major events. But at the GMO, where just five of the world's top 50 golfers were in the field, Roberts was the main event.
An enthusiastic gallery of Wisconsin fans followed Roberts on his final round, adopting him as a hometown favorite. He rewarded them with another display of exacting golf, essentially putting away the tournament when he holed a 25-yard chip from the fairway at 12.
"That was the one that broke everybody's back," Roberts said.
Langham made an extra $120,000 with a 10-foot birdie putt on 18, giving him a 72 for Sunday and sole possession of second place, one stroke ahead of Steve Pate, J.P. Hayes, Kenny Perry and Mathew Goggin.
It was the third runner-up finish this year for Langham, who was second at the Doral-Ryder Open in March and last month's Kemper Open.
"He just never gave me a chance," Langham said. "I could just see everybody's chances to win just slipping away."
Roberts took command of the tournament on Saturday, shooting a 63 and opening a two-stroke lead over Langham. On Sunday he picked up where he left off, making birdies on three of his first four holes and charging to a prohibitive lead.
"He was groovin'," Langham said. "He got on top and he never looked back."
Roberts left Milwaukee immediately after the tournament to hop a plane for Scotland, where he'll compete in the British Open on Thursday. Most of the game's top players got to St. Andrews a week earlier, but Roberts doesn't intend to stop visiting the GMO any time soon.
"I know that when next year comes around, I will be in Milwaukee trying to shoot 25-under par," he said.
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