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Roger Chapman Wins 2012 U.S. Senior Open

By Stuart Hall

| Jul 14, 2012 | Lake Orion, Mich.

Roger Chapman claimed the 2012 U.S. Senior Open by two strokes at Indianwood Golf and Country Club. (USGA/Fred Vuich)

Roger Chapman was born in Kenya and lives in England, but he may want to consider retiring to Michigan.

Chapman, 53, won the 33rd U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood Golf & Country Club on Sunday, just seven weeks after winning the Senior PGA Championship in Benton Harbor, Mich.

"Very soon," joked Chapman when asked when he would be purchasing a home in the state that he had never visited before winning the Senior PGA. 

On Friday, given the way scores were trending low, Chapman, sitting at 4 under for the championship, said he would take his chances if he were to shoot two rounds of 67 on the weekend.

After three consecutive rounds of 68, Chapman matched Sunday’s low round of 66 to finish at 10-under-par 270 – right on his prophetic number, to seal a two-stroke victory.

"I felt if I could get to double digits, you might have a sniff because it was quite breezy out there at times," said Chapman, who won $500,000 and the Francis Ouimet Trophy.

Langer, who looked otherworldly during a third-round 64 that included 28 putts and 17 greens hit in regulation to open a four-stroke lead, shot a 2-over 72 to finish at 8-under 272 along with Fred Funk (3-under 67), Tom Lehman (68) and Corey Pavin (68). John Cook (66) and John Huston (70) finished tied for sixth at 6-under 274.

In winning the Senior Open and Senior PGA, Chapman joins Gary Player (1987), Jack Nicklaus (1991) and Hale Irwin (1998) as the only players to have won both in the same year.

"To be in Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin's footsteps is a true honor," Chapman said.

Chapman was one of five players – with Huston, Lehman, Pavin and Tom Pernice Jr. – who were Langer’s closest pursuers starting the fourth round.

Pernice, playing with Langer in the final grouping, dropped quickly with a double bogey-bogey start en route to a 75. Huston’s pursuit ended with consecutive double bogeys on the eighth and ninth holes.

But the gap on Langer closed quickly.

Langer, who missed just four greens in his first 54 holes, made double bogey on the second hole to slip back to 8 under, one shot ahead of Huston, Lehman and Chapman.

"I tried to not let it bother me too much," Langer said. "Obviously, every time you make a double bogey, it's not much fun, but I knew there was a lot of golf left and I was still in the lead. If I shoot under par from that point on, I'll still be in good shape."

The scent of the lead permeated deeper down to Funk, who had gotten to 6 under.

"It was fun to get in the mix," he said. "I didn't really expect Bernhard to come backwards. I saw he was 2 over pretty early, I think after his first four.  Well, now we got a game on."

Chapman, who birdied the second to reach 7 under, tied Langer when he birdied the 407-yard, par-4 eighth. Langer, playing in the grouping behind Chapman, missed an 8-footer on the seventh and Chapman was suddenly alone in the lead.

"It's happened before, and it will happen again," Langer said. "So I knew that. My goal was to shoot under par. I said yesterday, if I shoot 1 or 2 under, it will be hard for the other guys to catch me, and I didn't do that."

At the 386-yard, par-4 11th, Chapman hit his 93-yard approach to 8 feet above the hole and made the straight birdie putt. His lead was now two strokes.

Drawing off his win two months ago in western Michigan, Chapman wavered little.

"I just kept saying to myself, look, you've done this before," he said. "I was actually surprised and enjoying it because I was in the mix again, which was good.

"I wanted to prove to myself and to other people that Benton Harbor wasn't a one‑off event. That was in the back of my mind also."

Chapman executed a nifty up-and-down from the bunker to save par on the 480-yard, par-4 12th, and two holes later extended his lead to three strokes with a 10-foot birdie putt.

On the 454-yard, par-4 16th, Chapman drove into the left rough and then found the right greenside rough on his approach. His pitch went past 8 feet. Chapman watched as Pavin made his this straight-in birdie putt to reach 8 under and excited the crowd with a first pump. Chapman left his par attempt on the left edge of the hole and the advantage had shrunk to a stroke.

Minutes later, Chapman hit a career shot, a 5-iron to within 6 inches on the par-3 17th that led to a birdie to reach 10 under and a two-stroke lead again.

"I was real pleased with the way I finished, birdieing 14, 15, 16, to put some pressure on Roger, who came through with a beautiful shot on 17," Pavin said. "You can't say much about it besides it was just a great shot at just the right time."

The events of the past couple of months have caught Chapman by surprise.

By his own admission, he’s had a journeyman career – if not life.

Chapman was born in Nakuru, Kenya, when his dad worked for the Ministry of Agriculture. The Chapmans moved to England in the early 1960s and Roger took up golf at age 10. He turned professional in 1981, after a Great Britain and Ireland Walker Cup appearance in which he defeated Hal Sutton in foursomes and singles on the second day of a 7-5 loss.

In more than 600 European Tour starts, he won just once – defeating Padraig Harrington in a playoff at the 2000 Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open. Upon leaving the European Tour in 2006, he was a European Senior Tour Rules official for a time before turning 50.

And now this.

"It hasn't sunk in yet, but very, very special," he said.

 Stuart Hall is a North Carolina-based freelance writer whose work has appeared previously on USGA websites.