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Chapman Hangs on to Win Senior PGA Championship
Though he wasn't as sharp as in the first three rounds, England's Roger Chapman managed to forge a wire-to-wire victory in the Senior PGA Championship. The 53-year-old Senior European Tour regular closed with a 1-over 72 at the Golf Club at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich., to finish at 13-under 271, two strokes ahead of John Cook.
After opening with rounds of 68, 67 and 64 to head into Sunday with a five-stroke edge over Cook, Chapman - whose only win of note came at his 474th start in the European Tour's 2000 at the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open - began the final round in fine shape with three birdies through his first seven holes. But then he started leaking oil, with a bogey on the ninth to make the turn at 2-under 34.
On the inward half Chapman may have felt some of the pressure in securing the biggest victory of his career. Following four straight pars, he bogeyed three of the five final holes but had such a large lead - with no player threatening it - that he cruised in with the win.
"I was playing so lovely - 3-under after seven," he said during the awards ceremony. "People were trying to make a move, so it was hard coming down the stretch."
Tears came to his eyes when mention was made of his late golf coach, George Will, who began working with Chapman after leaving tour golf to become the club pro at Sundridge Park in Bromley, Kent. "This (win) is dedicated to George Will," said Chapman, who earned $378,000.
Cook closed with a 2-under 69 to end up at 11-under 273, one stroke ahead of 66-year-old Hale Irwin, who shot a 68. Cook tried to put pressure on Chapman but couldn't quite get over the hump, in part due to Chapman's consistent play. "I told Tommy, my caddie, on the ninth hole, I said, we have got a tournament within a tournament here," Cook said. "Roger's thing is going to play out as it's going to play out. We have to win this other tournament, because guys were shooting 63s and 62s and 64s all over the place.
"I'm going, well, we said all week that you're going to have one round where you can make a lot of birdies. And those guys all did on Sunday. That was pretty impressive, if you ask me. The course wasn't that easy, I promise you that," Cook added.
"But that's exactly how I approached the last 10 holes (as) a tournament within a tournament. I have to win this tournament . . . that other tournament will play out. And it's so hard to play with a huge, huge lead like that. But he played, for I'll promise you, for 70 holes, it was pretty impressive, ball-striking wise.
"He missed one drive on 14. Hit it in the water. Other than that, it was, I tell you what, it was, I can't say it was fun to watch, but it was impressive to watch," Cook noted. "He's a good man though. I'm happy for him. We know what he's been through."
Irwin was pleased with his results and how the first major of the year on the over-50 circuit turned out. "I think we had a great championship," said Irwin, a 43-time winner on the Champions Tour and a three-time U.S. Open champion. "The course was there for the taking today, it was, the wind died down and some of the hole locations were a little less severe than what we have seen the last few days, as attested by the early scores that came in. There was some fabulous scores.
"But tee to green I think I played reasonably well. I just putted so poorly for the week and I'm not going to lay that off on putting alone, but these are difficult greens to putt, but I just didn't strike the putts very well and hopefully the, that's sort of, again like I said the other day, a tale of two cities. You got the tale of the tee to green and you got the tale of the greens. Well today and this week really it was the tale of how I got to the greens was very good and how I putted the greens was very poor.
"So I got some adjustments to make,' Irwin added. "I've got some ideas in mind. We'll see before the, I guess it will be next week, my experiment will have to end the week after that when we go to The Tradition."
Australia's Peter Senior posted a 63 to take a share of fourth at 9-under 275 with Sandy Lyle (64), Joe Daley (64), Bernhard Langer (65) and David Frost (67).
Lyle, a member of the 2012 class of inductees in the World Golf Hall of Fame, took note of Chapman's performance and inspiration this week. "First of all, I mean, he's lost his coach just recently (in 2010) due to illness and I think that's been a great motivation for him," said the 54-year-old Lyle, a two-time major winner. "It's been wonderful for him to pull it off this week. He's been a great player for many years, but maybe under the radar a little bit.
"And he hasn't, if you look at his record, he hasn't achieved a massive amount of tournament wins, but he's always been a good player. And I think that since he's turned 50 he's kept himself pretty healthy and he's still a very powerful player. And he did try and qualify for the Champions Tour last year, but he was on the borderline between you get in, you don't get in. And he didn't get in many tournaments.
"So I think he felt a little P'd off about that that he didn't get a chance to play when he thought he was in," added Lyle. "So I think this week he's come out there with a vengeance. He wants to prove to himself that he's capable of playing this tour and he came through 100 percent and it's a great achievement."
Kenny Perry posted the low round of the tournament, a 9-under 62 that included eight birdies, an eagle and a lone bogey, to take ninth at 8-under 276. Perry's score set a new Senior PGA all-time record, besting the mark set in 1961 by Buck White and tied later by Arnold Palmer in 1984. It also matched the record for the lowest score in a Champions Tour major.
"I was telling Freddie, my caddie, I said I was trying to shoot 59 out there today," Perry told reporters. "I knew I wasn't going to catch Roger, but I was just trying to, I was in that 'go' mode, I was just going at every stick and didn't really care, didn't have any fears or thoughts . . . I wish I could learn to play golf like that every day."
After getting off to a rocky start with a 76, Fred Couples rebounded nicely with rounds of 67, 70 and 66 to end up in 12th at 279 with several others. "It's always nice to play well and get out of here, but I actually, you know, it was good to make the cut," Couples said. "I know that sounds stupid to make the cut at a Senior PGA, but after 76, I needed to play Saturday and Sunday to get some feel. I'm going to play in Jack's tournament (the Memorial on the PGA Tour) next week, so I needed some more rounds."
Like Cook, Couples paid tribute to the champion. "I'm happy for Roger Chapman, it looks like he's going to close it out," said Couples. "He's played a long, long, long time and this will be a nice win."
The low club pro was Bill Britton, who finished at even-par 284. Out of the other club pros to make the weekend cut, Britton, who won once on the PGA Tour, was followed by Sonny Skinner (286), Jeff Coston (291) and Tom Atchison (297).
For all the scores, visit http://www.pga.com/seniorpga/2012/scoring/index.cfm.