He might be the overwhelming favourite on paper but Roger Chapman admitted he will, nevertheless, be a little star-struck when he lines up in Thursday’s first round of the Senior Open Championship Presented by Rolex.
The 53 year old Englishman has stunned the world of senior golf this year already with sensational victories in the season’s first two Major Championships, the US Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Michigan in May and across the same US state at Indianwood Golf and Country Club earlier this month in the US Senior Open.
Now this week at Turnberry on Scotland’s West Coast, he will attempt to become the first man since Gary Player in 1988 to complete the hat-trick of Senior Major titles, but to do so he will have to emerge from the spotlight of the feature group in the first two rounds in the company of Tom Watson and Greg Norman.
“It's all a bit bewildering at the moment to be honest – it’s a bit surreal but it’s slowly sinking in,” he said. “The first time I came here was 1977 as an amateur to play in The Open, and was part of the whole Duel in the Sun thing. But I missed the cut and I didn't really know what I was doing there.
“Therefore, to be playing alongside Tom Watson 35 years on is a huge privilege for me. I played 18 holes with him in the practice round yesterday and it was I have to say, a pleasure as he is an absolute gentleman.
“I played with Greg before a few years ago as well so I am really looking forward to it. Playing with those two guys on a championship golf course is nothing short of spectacular.
“I think my last Open was '86, the year Greg won here, and I had forgotten how good the golf course was. It's absolutely superb and I’m really looking forward to tomorrow, playing with two legends of the game.”
Another reason Chapman will be thrilled to line up alongside Watson is the fact that the American was a hero of the Englishman so much so that he named his second son Tom in his honour.
“I hold Tom Watson in the highest of esteem,” said Chapman. “The stuff he does off the course for sponsors and everything is amazing. I was absolutely gutted for him in [the Open Championship at Turnberry in] 2009. You know, if not for one bad bounce, he could have been The Open Champion and that would have been one of the greatest achievements in sporting history.”
Should Chapman triumph on Sunday night he will amass a virtually unassailable lead in the European Senior Tour Order of Merit and, given his recent form, it would be a brave man to bet against him.
“The wins have definitely given me a lot of belief,” he said. “At Indianwood, for example, I was totally in control of everything and I actually enjoyed coming up the 18th – it’s one of the few times I've ever done that.
“I've got a chance and I believe that I can put on a good show this week. But you know, you've got guys like Norman and Freddie Couples and all the rest - it's a roll of honour, this starting sheet here. So whoever comes out on top will have had to play some really serious golf on a serious golf course.”
Should he do just that, his name would go into the record books alongside Gary Player and the legendary South African spoke of his admiration for the Englishman.
“Roger Chapman, I tell you, is remarkable,” said Player. “I just wonder how many people realise what a great performance that is for a man to go from Europe and go to America and win two Majors. It’s unbelievable.”