OMAHA, Neb. – Roger Chapman’s reign as U.S. Senior Open champion came to a quick and quiet end Friday at Omaha Country Club when the Englishman carded a second-round 76 and departed the championship at 10-over 150.
“I just played rubbish, that was it,” Chapman, 54, said, not mincing words. “Drove the ball terrible. Had one birdie. That's it.”
That was it. Chapman, who joined Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin as the only players to win the U.S. Senior Open and the Senior PGA Championship in the same season, missed his first cut of the season and became the first man since Allen Doyle in 2007 to miss the cut as defending champion.
Chapman has been battling a bad shoulder for most of the year, and it forced him to withdraw from the U.S. Open at Merion, though he continued to play on the Champions Tour. He said the injury wasn’t to blame for his poor play. He hit just 12 fairways in two rounds, and on Friday he found just seven of 18 greens in regulation.
“If you can’t hit a fairway out here, you can’t score. Simple as that,” he said. “It’s not what I wanted. I had a great 12 months in the USGA.
“I have no excuses. I’ve just played poorly,” added Chapman, who was born in Kenya and lives in Ascot, England. “Been here [in the U.S.] 3 1/2 months, and I’m ready to go home for a bit. I’m wrung out.”
Omaha Country Club proved to be a sufficient test to wring out the field with its undulating topography and tricky greens. The cut of low 60 and ties fell at 5-over 145, with 64 players qualifying for the final two rounds.
One of the notable survivors was Irwin, a two-time U.S. Senior Open champion and three-time U.S. Open winner. The former University of Colorado defensive back went on offense late, converting birdies on three of his last four holes – mixed in with three par saves – to shoot 1-under 69. He passed Jack Nicklaus for most sub-par rounds in championship history with his 27th sub-par score.
Irwin closed in the red when he hit a 3-wood to 6 feet for birdie at the 475-yard, par-4 eighth hole and then sank a 25-footer for birdie at No. 9.
“Move over, Jack,” Irwin said with a laugh. “You know, over the years Jack has set the bar for all of us and said, ‘Come and catch me if you can.’ I was totally unaware of this, but it’s nice when you can say that you beat Jack Nicklaus at anything.”
Irwin, who has won a record 45 Champions Tour titles to go with 20 PGA Tour wins, also extended his own record with his 21st round in the 60s, four more than Nicklaus and seven more than third-place Dave Stockton, the 1996 Senior Open winner.
Other former Senior Open champions playing the final two days are Fred Funk (70-137), Eduardo Romero (141) and Bernhard Langer (74-142). In addition to Chapman, Dave Eichelberger missed at 76-155. Graham Marsh withdrew with a hip injury after shooting 87. Peter Jacobsen withdrew midway through the first round.
U.S. Open champions fared better, led by Irwin and 63-year-old Tom Watson, who shot his second 70. The 60s brigade also included Tom Kite, 63, who scrambled to 75-145, and Larry Nelson, 65, who birdied his last hole for a 72 and 145 total to sneak in. Corey Pavin also advanced after 73-142.
U.S. Amateur champions Mark O’Meara (71-138) and John Cook (70-142) are sticking around as well.
U.S. Open and Amateur champion Jerry Pate, who opened with a respectable 71, never made it to the tee in Round 2, withdrawing because of illness. Steve Jones (74) and Scott Simpson (77), who also have U.S. Open titles on their resumes, went home after each carded 150.
Mark Calcavecchia, a native of Laurel, Neb., shot a second-round 73 and made the cut on the number at 145.
Doug Hanzel, 56, will earn low-amateur honors for the second year in a row, provided he completes 72 holes. He was the lone amateur to make it to the weekend, shooting a second-round 70 for a 144 total. By virtue of being the only amateur remaining, Hanzel, an Ohio native who now resides in Savannah, Ga., , will earn a berth into this year’s U.S. Amateur, U.S. Mid-Amateur and USGA Senior Amateur, as well as the 2014 U.S. Senior Open. He tied for 53rd last year.
Dave Shedloski is an Ohio-based freelance writer whose work has previously appeared on USGA websites.