ST. LOUIS—Roger Chapman is in the spotlight at the Senior PGA Championship, a year after his breakthrough victory in the major championship.
“Last year, I sort of snuck in under the radar,” the 54-year-old Englishman said Wednesday, a day before the start of play at Bellerive Country Club. “I’ve raised the bar myself. That puts a bit more pressure on me.”
Chapman was a surprise winner last year at Harbor Shores in Michigan. Seven weeks later, joined Gary Player (1987), Jack Nicklaus (1991) and Hale Irwin (1998) as the only players to win two senior major titles in the same season, taking the U.S. Senior Open at Indianwood, also in Michigan.
“It was an incredible year, it’s difficult to put into words,” he said. “Sometimes, you just have to say, “Dreams come true.”
Chapman’s best finish in eight starts this season is a 10th-place tie in the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic in late March.
“The past few weeks I’ve been a little anxious wanting to play here,” he said. “Now that I’m here, I feel a bit more relaxed.”
A field of 156 will try and unseat Chapman on the par-71, 6,959-yard course. There are 34 international players entered representing an event-record 18 countries.
Tom Watson, the winner in 2001 and 2011, is among the challengers ready to take a run at Chapman’s crown.
The 63-year-old Watson has 39 PGA Tour wins and 14 Champions Tour triumphs. He is hoping his game can round into shape after several up-and-down performances in four outings this season.
“It’s been inconsistent right now,” he said. “I haven’t had a real consistent tournament yet this year. But it can turn around. A lot of times, it just takes one swing.”
After a practice round Wednesday, Watson said the Bellerive course will favor the heavy hitters.
“It’s playing very, very long,” he said. “Or I’m getting shorter.”
Bernhard Langer, a two-time Masters champion, has two victories this season.
John Cook finished second to Chapman, two strokes back, last year. Cook became the first non-winner of the event to shoot in the 60s in all four rounds.
In the last Champions Tour event, Esteban Toledo won the Insperity Championship on May 5 at The Woodlands in Texas to become the first Mexican champion in tour history. He beat Mike Goodes on the third playoff hole.
DIVOTS: Created at Bobby Jones’ suggestion, the event was first played in 1937 at Augusta National. ... Nick Price won the 1992 PGA Championship at Bellerive. ... Jim Woodward won the Senior PGA Professional National Championship in October at Creighton Farm in Virginia to top the 35 club professional qualifiers. He’s the PGA teaching pro at Oak Tree National in Edmond, Okla. ... Sam Snead won six times, the last in 1973.