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Tuesday, 07 August 2012
Roger Chapman  (Getty Images)
Roger Chapman (Getty Images)

Despite a nightmare journey from England to South Carolina, US PGA Championship debutant Roger Chapman declared he had nothing to lose ahead of the final Major of the year at Kiawah Island.

And while the tagline for the 94th staging of the US PGA might be ‘Glory’s Last Shot’, for England’s Chapman, whose extraordinary season has provided one of the great golf stories of the year, it is a first shot at victory in the fourth and final Major Championship of the season as the Ascot man makes his maiden appearance at the championship in his 32nd year as a professional golfer.

In what has been a quite remarkable year thus far, Chapman’s first of two Senior Major triumphs came at the US Senior PGA Championship in late May at Harbor Shores in Michigan, when the 53 year old made history by becoming the first European to win the event since Jock Hutchison in 1947.

Chapman followed his two-shot US Senior PGA success – a victory that granted him exemption into this week’s US PGA Championship in South Carolina – with another astonishing feat of golfing when he made it a Michigan Major double in early July as he came from four shots behind heading into the final day of the US Senior Open to claim a two-shot victory at Indianwood.

A truly incredible season, by anyone’s standards, then, and ahead of the US PGA Chapman still sounded somewhat astounded by his own accomplishments.

“It certainly has changed my life,” said Chapman, whose only European Tour win came at the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open in 2000. “I went to Harbor Shores thinking a top 20 would be quite good and then all of a sudden I found myself with a five shot lead on Sunday lunchtime.  And while it was not quite panic stations, it was close, but it was enjoyable.

“It was a great week as I managed to get over the line for a magical win for me - my first big tournament - and then to follow it up six weeks later with the US Senior Open at Indianwood on the other side of Michigan was beyond belief.  I might buy a place in Michigan!”

Chapman, who had to pull out of a historic Senior Major treble bid with a neck injury at the Senior Open Championship, attested he was back to full fitness after a week off from golf but had to endure a “nightmare” transatlantic journey to get to Kiawah Island.

“I left London at 12:00 on Sunday, and I got here at 2:30 Monday afternoon.  I had a nightmare,” said Chapman.

“At Washington I was in the airport for 14 hours, got here via Savannah in the end but lost my clubs, lost my suitcase.  But apart from that, everything is great!  I got my suitcase, clubs and everything about 8:00 last night.
 
“So I have not had the chance to look at the course,” Chapman continued before humorously adding, “I tell a lie; I played it on Xbox with my son Sunday morning, so I got a bit of a feel to it!”

Having begun his golfing life with a highly successful amateur career, in which he won the English Amateur in 1979 and defeated 1983 US PGA Champion Hal Sutton twice in the Walker Cup in 1981, Chapman’s European Tour career could be described as that of a ‘journeyman’, as the Kenyan born man readily admits himself with just the one aforementioned victory in 618 events. 

“I think if I'd have possibly won the '85 Swiss Masters in Crans sur Sierre then things might have changed.  If I could have got over the line then my career might have been different.

“But what’s happened is pretty unexplainable.  All of a sudden I think Senior golf gives you a new lease of life, knowing you're not going to be on the scrap heap for the years to come; you try and take every opportunity you can, and fortunately those two I did.”

His last appearance at a Major was the 2002 Open at Muirfield, where he was unfortunately disqualified in the second round for signing for a wrong score.
 
Yet he will also be at next June's US Open - courtesy of his victory at the US Senior Open last month - a double that was worth an incredible €700,000.

And with such a whirlwind of a season already behind him, Chapman insists he is simply going to embrace the Kiawah experience and take each day as it comes.

“I’m absolutely in a nothing to lose position this week,” he said.  “My first US PGA Championship, I’m really looking forward to it.  It looks a fantastic piece of land and I'm just going to enjoy it. 

“If I make the cut, I make the cut.  It's another big experience for me to be treading the fairways with some of these wonderful young players; it's a real huge lift for me and an honour to be here.”

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