Roberts on way back to his best

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When lightning moved into the Bay Hill area and the siren blew to call the golfers off the course, many of the European players needed the break. The leaderboard at Arnold Palmer's Nestl Invitational remained fully draped in the stars and stripes yesterday.

Loren Roberts, the defending champion, shot a 65 to reach 11 under par, two strokes ahead of Davis Love III, who had a second-round 66.

The highest ranked international player after two rounds was Sweden's Jesper Parnevik, who followed up his opening 67 with a 72 yesterday and was six strokes behind Roberts. Bernhard Langer was a stroke further back at four under after a round of 69, but that was the end of the good news for the Europeans.

The next best European performer was Colin Montgomerie, level par for the tournament and one under for the day through 14 holes when he was forced to come off the course. Ian Woosnam came next, his second round 74, which included three three-putts, bringing last week's third-place finisher down to the cut line at one over par.

Nick Faldo was also on that figure, having played his first five holes in two over par yesterday when he halted play. Also on the course and struggling to make the cut were Jose Maria Olazabal, at three over through four holes, and Seve Ballesteros, six over through 12. Sandy Lyle was the only one who was sure of missing the cut, having two-putted from four feet on the last to just miss out of a weekend schedule.

Last year Roberts was, as he described it, a day labourer on the PGA Tour. A club professional for many years who got a late start on tour, he had never won a tournament and, two years ago, had taken over from Bobby Wadkins the dubious honour of being the richest man with out a victory. But thanks to his own good play and some late fumbling by Fuzzy Zoeller and Vijay Singh, Roberts had his first title, receiving his trophy and grey winner's jacket from Arnold Palmer.

Roberts says that had it not been for his win here at Bay Hill, he would never have been able to perform as well as he did at the US Open, where he came within inches of winning the play-off, finally losing to Ernie Els on the 20th play-off hole.

This year he has done very little, struggling with his game, particularly his putting, though he is considered one of the best putters on tour. But yesterday he pulled everything together, and through 16 holes was nine under par for the day, 13 under for the tournament, which at the time was good enough for a five-stroke lead.

NESTLE INVITATIONAL (Bay Hill, Orlando) Early second-round scores: (US unless stated): 133 L Roberts 68 65. 135 D Love III 69 66. 136 B Andrade 67 69. 138 M Brooks 65 73 139 J Parnevik (Swe) 67 72, F Couples 68 71, F Zoeller 68 71, S Stricker 67 72, B Faxon 69 70 140 B Langer (Ger) 71 69, G Norman (Aus) 71 69, M McNulty (Zim) 68 72, M Heinen 69 71, P Goydos 73 67 141 N Price (Zim) 71 70, E Els (SA) 74 67, J Sluman 71 70, F Funk 70 71, J Haas 72 69, B Crenshaw 71 70, P Azinger 71 70, C Pavin 71 70. Selected: 145 I Woosnam (GB) 71 74. 146 S Lyle (GB) 73 73.

Leading first-round scores: 65 M Brooks. 67 J Parnevik (Swe), S Stricker, R Fehr, B Andrade. 68 J Daly, F Zoeller, F Couples, L Roberts, M McNulty (Zim), J Carter. 69 B Lohr, P Stewart, M McCumber, B Faxon, M Heinen, B Glasson, D Love. 70 D Edwards, T Lehman, P Jacobsen, D Forsman, J Gallagher, S Simpson, M O'Meara, L Nelson, F Funk, D Pooley, R Black. Selected: 71 N Faldo (GB), I Woosnam (GB), M Ozaki (Japan), N Price (Zim), G Norman (Aus), B Langer (Ger). 73 C Montgomerie (GB), V Singh (Fiji). 74 E Els (SA). 75 S Ballesteros (Sp), J-M Olazabal (Sp), N Ozaki (Japan), S Lyle (GB). 77 Y Mizumaki (Japan), F Allem (SA). 79 C Parry (Aus). 82 I Baker- Finch (Aus).