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Three-time champion remains in contention

Published Feb. 26, 2006

It was difficult to make a move Saturday, but there have been very few difficult days lately for Loren Roberts.

In his first full season on the circuit, Roberts has won the Champions Tour's first three events of 2006. After Saturday's round, he is in the hunt for the fourth.

Roberts shot 2-under 69 despite breezy conditions at the TPC of Tampa Bay for a two-day total of 4-under, three back of leaders Mark James, Mark McNulty and Hale Irwin.

"I made a few putts, kept myself in contention," Roberts said. "We're supposed to have bad weather (today), and if that happens and I can shoot 4 or 5 under, then I've got a good chance of winning."

Roberts, 50, is in the habit of winning. He opened this season with a win at the MasterCard Championship and followed with a victory at the Turtle Bay Championship, both in Hawaii. His third straight win came last week at the Ace Group Classic in Naples. Roberts leads the tour money list with $755,000.

He won eight tournaments in a 24-year PGA career. The only time he won twice in one season was 1996. If Roberts can win today, he would be the first Champions Tour member to win four straight tournaments since Chi Chi Rodriguez in 1997.

"On the PGA Tour, I was a slow starter," Roberts said. "I've never done anything like this. I've been playing well. And this week, I haven't hit the ball well, but I've managed my game well."

TEAM LEADERS: John Jacobs and Lightning president Ron Campbell lead the Pro-Am with a team score of 20-under. Jay Haas and Fred Paglia are second at 17-under.

Curtis Strange and former pro tennis player and Dade City native Jim Courier are third at 15-under. Strange is 1-over individually, but Courier has played well enough to keep the team in the lead, which is a surprise to him.

"I came in with very low expectations," Courier said. "I've played two rounds of golf in 2006 before this tournament. Curtis and I have ham-and-egged it around here pretty well."

The top 12 teams made the cut for today's final round. Other notable teams advancing were Des Smyth and Bucs linebacker Derrick Brooks and Larry Nelson and new Monday Night Football announcer Joe Theismann.

MAKING A MOVE: On a day when the wind swirled and most scores went up, Nelson and Scott Simpson got themselves close to the leaders. Simpson shot 3-under 68 and is 4 under overall, three shots off the lead. His round included birdies at Nos. 11-13.

"It was tough," Simpson said. "Some of the greens hold well and then some of them release. I think the greens are tough to putt, at least for me. I made my short ones, but those 15- to 20-footers are tough."

Nelson shot 2-under 69 and is two shots back. His round could have been better if not for bogies on Nos. 17 and 18. When reminded of those holes, he faked amnesia.

"What holes?" Nelson said. "I've already forgotten about them. You have to. The way the wind was, it was hard to get the ball to those holes. What happened is gone. You have to start thinking about (today)."

NOT MAKING A MOVE: Bruce Lietzke was tied for the lead after Friday's opening round, but he fell four shots back Saturday after shooting 3-over 74. While it would have been nice to keep pace, Lietzke said he didn't expect to run away from the field.

"I'm a good frontrunner, but I've never been the kind who has separated himself from the field," he said. "It's no concern to me. It just doesn't happen much out here."

WINDY CONDITIONS: How windy was it Saturday? Windy enough to blow down the large video display board to the right of the 18th green. The board, which displays color pictures and statistics of players coming to the 18th hole, will not be used today.