As Thorpe and Roberts approached the 18th green at the Charles
Schwab Cup Championship, Haas stayed in the scorers' tent. After
all, Roberts needed only a simple two-putt to edge Haas in the
season-long points competition that went down to the final hole.
How could one of their generation's best putters blow this one?
About an inch to the left, that's how.
Thorpe rallied through the final holes to stay on top of a tight
field with a 4-under 68 in the Champions Tour's season-ending
event, cruising to a two-stroke victory over Tom Kite and his
second win at Sonoma Golf Club in four years.
"I was the one that made it happen when I needed to make it
happen," Thorpe said.
But Roberts provided the real drama when he missed a 4½-foot
putt on the tournament's final hole. With that single miss, Haas
won the two players' back-and-forth, competition for the Charles
Schwab Cup and the resulting $1 million annuity.
While Thorpe matched the biggest payday of his career with
$440,000 from the $2.5 million purse, the result left Haas and
Roberts both dismayed.
"It's not bittersweet, but just different, for obvious
reasons," said Haas, who wasn't pleased with his final-round 72.
"I feel bad for Loren. He played well all year."
Roberts, the Champions Tour's best putter all season, couldn't
make one last putt -- and so the "Boss of the Moss" had to settle
for a $500,000 annuity while Haas claimed his first gold cup.
"I've been second my whole career, so there you go," Roberts
Roberts' sharp first putt from 56 feet on the 18th set up the
4½-footer on a smooth downhill roll -- but it rimmed the left side
and lipped off to the right. Roberts quickly learned he had just
blown half a million bucks, and many fans in the groaning Sonoma
gallery seemed aware.
"I was probably a little tired from the Ryder Cup and
everything this year," said Roberts, an assistant captain for the
U.S. team. "I ran out of gas today, and the putter let me down.
That's what's so disappointing."
Keith Fergus shot a 66 to finish third, three strokes back at 14 under. Roberts (71) and Eduardo Romero (68) were fourth at 12 under, with Haas at 11 under with Craig Stadler (69) and Tom Watson (70).
Haas earned $105,000 to win the money title with $2,420,227.
Roberts made $158,000 to finish second with $2,365,395. They shared
the tour victory lead with four.
"To do that is a thrill for me," Haas said of his money title.
"As I look back on it as the weeks go by, it will mean a lot more
to me. That I've led the money list at least once in my life is a
pretty neat thing."
Meanwhile, Thorpe coolly finished up his bogey to pocket his
12th Champions Tour victory -- and his fourth in Northern
California, following the 2003 title in Sonoma and back-to-back
wins in wine country earlier in the 57-year-old's career.
"I'm pretty much a California player," said Thorpe, who grew
up in North Carolina and lives in Florida. "Even when I was on the
regular tour, there's just something out here -- the weather or
something -- that makes me play good. I don't know what it is."
Thorpe led after the first and third rounds, taking a two-shot
margin over Kite, Haas and Roberts into the final 18 holes.
Thorpe's competition with Kite peaked shortly before the turn,
when Kite took the lead with consecutive birdies. Thorpe, the
third-round leader, missed makable putts on the first two holes
after the turn, muttering to himself as he walked the course with
the similarly struggling Roberts.
But Thorpe snapped out of a mediocre round with an eagle on the
par-5 13th, holing an 11-foot putt after an exceptional 230-yard
approach shot. After another strong 8-iron on the 14th, Thorpe then
buried a 20-foot chip from the rough for birdie on the 15th,
raising his arms in celebration as it dropped.
Kite couldn't move from 15 under after a birdie on the 10th --
and by then, the drama had shifted to Roberts and Haas, who
finished with 3,053 points to Roberts' 3,033 in the Schwab Cup
competition. If Roberts had made his putt, he would have won by 16
Allen Doyle established a tradition of giving the Schwab Cup
money to charity, and Haas plans to disperse the $1 million to
several charities around his home in Greenville, S.C., including a