Chapman gets the hang of it – after only 28 years

 

Better late than never, should be tattooed on Roger Chapman's bag. His record in the United States reads: played two, won two. Chapman is 53 years old. In 28 seasons on the European Tour, a career that extended over 618 events, Chapman won once. And in all that time he barely crossed the Atlantic to play golf. He wasn't good enough.

But in May this year he made it to the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, Michigan.

Incredibly Chapman won, and then repeated the feat at the Senior US Open a month later, which not only took his earnings in America to a career-best £565,000, but also earned him his passage into a third tournament across the Atlantic, and quite an important one at that, the US PGA, which begins at Kiawah Island on Thursday.

If he fails to net the hat-trick he has another crack at it in the US Open at Merion next year.

Chapman's last appearance at a major championship ended in disqualification over a scorecard error in his second round at The Open at Muirfield a decade ago. His best finish at The Open was 12th at Birkdale back in 1991.

But his fondest memories go back to his debut at Turnberry as an 18-year-old amateur in 1977, best known for the "Duel in the sun" between Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus.

"I'd come through qualifying at West Herts and then at Western Gailes in Ayrshire. I remember standing on the seventh tee looking out over the Ailsa course, gazing at the huge crowds and thinking, 'What on earth am I doing here?' I felt totally out of my depth." Chapman is grouped with double major winner Retief Goosen and Mark Brooks in the opening two rounds, starting with an afternoon tee time on Thursday. In the marque groups, world No 1 Luke Donald will start alongside this year's Open pace-setter Brandt Snedeker and Zach Johnson.

World No 2 Rory McIlroy is in with Dustin Johnson and the red-hot Jim Furyk, who blew the lead at the US Open on the last day.

World No 2 Lee Westwood has Angel Cabrera and Bill Haas for company. Tiger Woods, whose search for the form of old continues to fluctuate, is grouped with the previous two winners of the PGA, Keegan Bradley and Martin Kaymer. The latter is showing signs of a return to the dominance of two years ago, a run which propelled him to the top of the world rankings in February 2011. The season's three major winners, Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson and Ernie Els head out in the blue riband three ball.

All of the leading contenders were in action yesterday at the final WGC event of the year, the Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio. Jim Furyk topped the leaderboard going into day three on 11 under after following up his opening-round 63 with a four-under 66. Spain's Rafael Cabrera Bello was second on nine under.

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