Roberts, the Boss of the Moss, was considered the Tour's top putter until Woods got hot this year. Roberts is a short hitter and an underrated player, but when he won July's Greater Milwaukee Open by a Tigeresque eight strokes, Lorenmania nearly broke out. "I was mad at myself that I didn't win by 10," he says. "I let up."
Roberts was also third at this year's Masters, eighth at the U.S. Open and seventh at the British Open. Think he wants to win the Presidents Cup? He stopped off for a practice round at Robert Trent Jones on the Monday before the Michelob. Roberts played well in his one Ryder Cup (3-1, in '95), and in the inaugural Presidents Cup he and Corey Pavin rallied from three down with six to play to beat Craig Parry and Fulton Allem in a foursomes match. At the 15th hole that day Roberts hit what he says was "the best three-iron of my life out of a bunker" off the fairway into one beside the green. Pavin holed out from there. "I've hit the ball tee to green better than I have in 10 years," Roberts said after contending for three rounds at Kingsmill, then finishing 19th. "I'm pretty excited."
Azinger, likely to be chosen as a Ryder Cup captain within four years, expects the whole team to be excited, unlike two years ago. "It was a joke to make those guys go to Australia at Christmas," he says. "If the Presidents Cup goes away someday, you can point the finger at the guy who scheduled that one, and if we go to South Africa [late in '02], it'll be the same mistake. I wouldn't be surprised to see some really good players say, 'I'm not going.' "
Next week, though, Azinger expects the U.S. to come out firing. "One or two guys may not want to be there," he says, "but when the bell rings, they'll want to win. Pride always kicks in. It's not the Ryder Cup, but I guarantee you it'll be as competitive."
After 1998, that would be a step in the right direction.