Roger Chapman took the first round lead in the 73rd US Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid after a run of four birdies in five holes around the turn helped the Englishman to a three under par 68.
Chapman fared best in testing winds at Horbor Shores, Michigan, thanks to his hat-trick of birdies from the seventh for a front nine of 34 and then another birdie on the par three 11th. Indeed it could have been five in a row but for a three-putt from distance on the tenth.
On a day when only eight players broke par Chapman’s closest challenger was American John Cook, one behind after a two under par 69. Six players shot one under par 70s including South African David Frost.
European Senior Tour rookie Paul Wesselingh of England shot an impressive level par 71 in his very first Senior Major, a score matched by Anders Forsbrand of Sweden and Ireland's Mark McNulty.
The fact Chapman hit every fairway and 16 of the 18 greens in regulation underlined the quality of his ball-striking in the season’s first Senior Major, and only his second event of the season.
“I drove the ball very well, didn't miss a fairway,” he said. “And the iron play was good as well. I had a couple of three putts out there, but I think that if you don't have a three putt in 72 holes around here, then you've done really well.”
“It was a solid round,” he continued. “Surprising really, because we have only played one event in Europe this year, so this is probably my fourth real competitive round this year. So it's a long way to come, and a long wait. But I'm very pleased with the way things are going.”
Chapman’s birdie run began with a 30 foot putt on the seventh, followed by some lovely wedge play on the next two holes as he pitched to 12 feet twice and holed out each time.
“That was a nice ltitle run there and for the momentum going for the round," said Chapman, who is sponsored by Speedy Services, title sponsor of the Speedy Services Wales Senior Open.
And after the sliight blip of a three putt on ten he drained a 40 foot putt on the very next hole.
The 16th was arguably the best indication of the strength of the wind as after hitting nine iron approaches in practice he was forced to go in with a four iron.
“The wind was really starting to pick up about the sixth and seventh. That's when we noticed it. With the wind, and the greens are quite firm, it's very difficult to actually get the ball close. So you might hit a good shot in and it might just go with the wind a bit and go 25, 30 feet past. And then with the slopes on the greens that it makes the putting quite tricky as well.”