Insider: Reliving the top moments of 2012's first half

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Chris Condon/PGA TOUR
Tom Lehman's win in the rain at the Regions Tradition was one of the top moments of the first half of 2012.
July 04, 2012
Vartan Kupelian, PGATOUR.COM Contributor

For the Champions Tour, it's 13 events down -- including three major championships -- and 12 left.

There have been twists and turns, and two significant surprises in the majors with Englishman Roger Chapman winning the Senior PGA Championship and Joe Daley last week claiming the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS title.

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Two majors remain -- the U.S. Senior Open next week at Indianwood Golf & Country Club in Lake Orion, Mich., and the Senior British at Turnberry, the majestic layout on Scotland's Ayrshire coast. Based on what we know about the 2012 campaign so far, it might be good to be a relative unknown at those events.

Here's a look back at the first six months of the Champions Tour season and some of things that made us stand up and take notice.

As Good As It Gets

Mark Calcavecchia called it a "one in a million shot." Corey Pavin said he couldn't remember ever making a better par save in his career.

Nobody who saw the shot Pavin pulled off to win the Allianz Championship at Broken Sound Golf Club to win his first career Champions Tour title will soon forget it. It's the Shot of the Year so far on Tour. (Watch it here.)

It was crunch time and Pavin's ball was up against a tree root behind the green of the par-3 14th hole at Broken Sound. He was tied for the lead with Calcavecchia. Pavin needed something special to happen to keep his share. He turned his 8-iron around and hit a left-handed chip that somehow snuggled up to within five feet of the hole. Pavin made the putt and went on to win a playoff against Peter Senior.

But nobody was dwelling on what happened after The Shot.

"That was a once-in-a-lifetime shot," Pavin said. "I can't think of a better up-and-down I've had in my career. It's not like I practice turning 8-irons over and hit them left-handed. When that happens, you think you're going to win, but I had to get that thought out of my head."

Win, he did.

A Good Walk Unspoiled

Mark Twain had it wrong. Golf doesn't have to be a good walk spoiled.

For Kenny Perry, the final round of the ACE Group Classic was a stroll in the park after a stunning second-round 62.

Perry shot 64-62-70 to win by 5 shots at Twin Eagles Golf Club in Naples, Fla. Starting the final round with the lead, Perry made birdies on three of the first eight holes and no one got close enough to threaten him.

Perry made 24 birdies -- two shy of the Champions Tour record for a 54-hole event. His 196 total tied the tournament record set by Bernhard Langer in 2010 at The Quarry.

What a Finish

Fred Funk is fit and hardy again. He's in his element. That means hitting plenty of good shots and once again producing exciting finishes.

One of his best came at the Insperity Championship at The Woodlands and helped Funk end a two-year drought on the Champions Tour. Funk birdied four of the last five holes, including the 18th hole to shoot 5-under 67 and post his first win since the 2010 Tradition.

"It was a storybook-type week," said Funk, who has been riddled by injuries over the past couple of seasons.

Funk authored the final chapter on the 18th hole. Funk and Tom Lehman arrived there tied for the lead. Lehman had built a two-shot margin on the back nine with a run of three straight birdies, matching Funk stroke-for-stroke. It was riveting stuff. Funk's birdies at the 15th and 16th tied restored the tie.

Both hit the fairway with their drives on No. 18. Funk, playing first, had 174 yards to the green. He hit the 5-iron approach to within 24 inches of the hole.

"One of the best shots I've ever hit," Funk said.

Lehman hit a 7-iron from 157 yards. It finished 12 feet away.

"I thought it was going to be a lot closer, actually," Lehman said.

Two great shots and one memorable birdie added up to a tremendous finish at The Woodlands.

Tom's Tradition

Tom Lehman's disappointment for letting the Insperity Championship slip away was shortlived when he won his second straight Senior PGA Championship in the rain at Shoal Creek.

Lehman posted four rounds in the 60s to join Jack Nicklaus, Gil Morgan and Fred Funk as the only players to win the Regions Tradition on multiple occasions. He also became the first player to repeat in a senior major since Allen Doyle won the U.S. Senior Open in 2005 and 2007.

Lehman shot a final round 68 for a 274 total and 2-shot victory over Bernhard Langer and Chien Soon Lu.

O! Canada

Courses for horses? How about countries for golfers?

Mark Calcavecchia won his second Champions Tour title at the Montreal Championship. He matched the course record 8-under 64 in the final round for a comfortable 4-shot victory at Richelieu Valley's Vercheres Course. He finished at 16-under 200.

It was the third time Calcavecchia has won in Canada. He previously had captured the PGA TOUR's 1997 Greater Vancouver Open and 2005 Canadian Open. He also set a PGA TOUR record with nine straight birdies in the 2009 Canadian Open.

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"I've always liked Canada, even in the early years when we played Glen Abbey every year," Calcavecchia said. "I had some good tournaments there in my early days. One of my fondest memories my first few years on the TOUR, I made the cut in the Canadian Open and I played the third round with Tom Weiskopf and Jack Nicklaus. I thought that was pretty cool. I'll never forget that."

He won't forget his hat trick of victories in Canada, either.

Rule Brittania

Englishman Roger Chapman got the Champions Tour's major season off to a surprising start when he won the Senior PGA Championship at Harbor Shores in Benton Harbor, Mich.

Not only did Chapman essentially come out of nowhere to win, he did it in style, building a huge lead (it was five shots after 54 holes) to coast to the finish line with a final-round 72.

It was the first Champions Tour victory for Chapman, a journeyman whose highlight in golf had been winning a European Tour event in Brazil 12 years ago.

"It's the greatest day of my professional career, no question about that," Chapman said. "It's incredible just to have my name on the trophy under Tom Watson's. It's weird.

"If I had a school report I would probably give myself a B-minus for my European Tour career. It's a long learning curve -- it took 26 years to learn it."

He can give himself an A-plus for winning the Senior PGA Championship.

Champions Tour Insider Vartan Kupelian is a freelance contributor for PGATOUR.COM. His views do not necessarily represent the views of the PGA TOUR. He can be reached at [golfstix@aol.com]

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