Chapman returns from 1st Champions Tour win
BIRMINGHAM, Ala.—Roger Chapman got to rest up Monday, even giving away his tickets to a Coldplay concert.
It has been a whirlwind couple of weeks for the Englishman who pulled off a stunning wire-to-wire win at the Senior PGA Championship that gave him a one-year exemption and thus more opportunities for lazy Mondays now that he doesn't have to spend them trying to qualify for Champions Tour events.
Now, Chapman is aiming to show that wasn't a fluke at the year's second major, the $2.2 million Regions Tradition, starting Thursday at Shoal Creek.
"I think you're under a little bit of pressure," he said. "You want to obviously do well again. It's going to be interesting how I handle it. At Benton Harbor, I was just in this little cocoon for four days. If you could bottle that up and sell it, you would be a wealthy man. Everything felt so good.
"But yeah, there is a little bit more added pressure to perform well and just prove that hopefully it wasn't a one-hit wonder."
Chapman plays on the European Senior Tour and his biggest highlight previously was a European Tour win in Brazil 12 years ago. He claimed a conditional exemption on the Champions Tour in 2010 and lost his status last year, forcing him to attempt to qualify on Mondays.
Getting out of that position is, he said, "absolutely brilliant."
Chapman competed in 11 Champions Tour events last year without a Top 25 finish and a meager (for a pro golfer) $88,169 in winnings. He got $378,000 for winning the Senior PGA in his first event of the year in the U.S., putting him in good position to maintain his exemption through 2013 with a Top 30 finish on the money list.
Chapman beat John Cook by two strokes but had the pressure mostly off after leading by nine through seven holes on the final day at Harbor Shores in Michigan.
It touched off a giddy plane ride back home. Media obligations even caused him to miss his flight from South Bend, Ind., despite a police escort part of the way that he called "very cool."
"I couldn't sleep at all," Chapman said. "Kept walking up and down the aisle. I was just fidgety, I was too hyper and I just wanted to see the family. I knew they were going to meet me at the airport with flags and balloons and everything. It's been brilliant."
He celebrated the next night at a favored pub, The Lounge in Sunningdale, where "there were balloons and party poppers and lots of beer."
Chapman, a former English Amateur champion, had been working as a rules official on the European Tour in 2007 and 2008 before becoming eligible to join the over-50 crowd.
He competed in Spain last weekend and arrived in Birmingham Tuesday night. Chapman hadn't seen Shoal Creek except on TV at the PGA Championships and last year's Champions Tour debut.
"It looks like a great atmosphere and everybody's buzzing about the tournament," he said. "And what sort of thrilled me most are the players that have come up to me and said, `Well played.' That's been pretty cool."
Michael Allen has known Chapman since playing in Europe for three years during the late 1980s.
"I know he's a really good player who really hasn't played well over here so far this year until (the Senior PGA)," said Allen, the Schwab Cup points leader. "He was certainly the best player that week. It's one of the great things about golf, it takes a week or two and you can be in the same game and be a big part of it. It's great."
Doing it twice in a row against the Champions Tour's elder statesmen would be a "brilliant" feat.
Jay Haas is coming off a five-stroke win over Larry Mize at the Principal Charity Classic. Tom Lehman won the last of his three 2011 titles at Shoal Creek. He won with a par on the second playoff hole last year to beat Peter Senior.
Lehman is coming off a tie with Fred Funk for fourth place at the Principal Charity Classic.
"Having had one year of experience here, which was a very good experience, there's no guarantee of success again this year," Lehman said. "But I tend to not get too concerned with being defending champion. Just because I won last year, there's no certainty that I will again this year. With that said, my game is in good shape. I've been playing pretty well the last month and a half or so and I feel pretty good."