GOLF : Roberts relies on precise putting

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The Independent Online
Great putting can make up for a number of long-game problems and win golf tournaments, so it was not surprising that Loren Roberts, the best putter on the USPGA Tour, should have defended his Nestl Invitational title at Bay Hill yesterday. What was remarkable was that his second Nestl was also just his second career title.

Even though he had bogeys at the last two holes, Roberts had built up enough of a cushion to win by two strokes from Brad Faxon, with Peter Jacobsen third.

Roberts has made a career out of being really close to winning, never more so than last year at Oakmont when he nearly won the US Open, earning a place in the three-way play-off that included Colin Montgomerie and the eventual champion Ernie Els.

Normally soft-spoken and self-effacing, Roberts can be cocky when it comes to his putting skill, which is pure and free of gimmickry or gadgets. He said: "That's my forte. When you're on the putting green, you're in my stadium. A lot of guys can beat me tee to green, but the putting green is my house. And you can't beat me in my house."

Roberts led at Bay Hill from Friday morning, when he shot a second round 65. However, his advantage shifted from seven strokes to a tie with Brad Faxon for three holes. By the time he made the turn yesterday, Roberts had a three-stroke lead, and this time the margin kept widening in his favour.

Nick Faldo, held back during the first two rounds by faulty driving which left him in danger of missing the cut, finished fifth after playing the last two rounds 10 under par for a 10-under total.

Faldo, facing the demanding Players' Championship next week after three weeks of gruelling golf, said: "The most important thing is rest. I want to have three really easy days. I've got to work on my driver, and I'll go up to Jacksonville and take a look at those greens, but I may just play nine holes on both Tuesday and Wednesday."

NESTL INVITATIONAL (Orlando) Leading final scores (US unless stated): 272 L Roberts 68 65 68 71. 274 B Faxon 69 70 64 71. 275 P Jacobsen 70 68 68 69. 277 S Stricker 67 72 69 69. 278 N Faldo (Eng) 71 73 66 68; J Haas 72 69 69 68; D Waldorf 71 72 70 65; M McCumber 69 70 69 70; J Parnevik (Swe) 67 72 67 72; B Lohr 69 70 67 72. 279 G Norman (Aus) 71 69 70 69; S Simpson 70 71 70 68; M McNulty (Zim) 68 72 67 72. 280 P Burke 71 73 70 66; N Price (Zim) 71 70 68 71. Selected: 284 B Langer (Ger) 71 69 75 69. 286 C Montgomerie (Sco) 73 70 70 73; J M Olazabal (Sp) 75 69 66 76. 287 I Woosnam (Wal) 71 74 70 72.