Breakthrough wins seem to be contagious
April 24, 2017
By Cameron Morfitt, PGATOUR.COM
- Kevin Chappell was just the 10th player to convert a 54-hole lead/co-lead into a victory this season. (MariannaMassey/Getty Images)
In the final round of the 2017 Valero Texas Open, 30-year-old Kevin Chappell sheds his winless ways with an 8-foot birdie putt on 18 to edge Brooks Koepka by a shot.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where former UCLA standout Chappell — who had six runner-up finishes (four of them last season) but no victories in 179 starts — notched his first PGA TOUR win to touch off a rousing celebration.
1. Chappell said playing at TPC San Antonio relaxes him, and added he even enjoyed a margarita as he scarfed down a quick dinner Saturday night before putting the kids to bed.
That’s all well and good, but Chappell also could have chalked up his lazy river state of mind to all the recent breakthroughs on the PGA TOUR.
Prior to Chappell getting the monkey off his back at the Valero, we saw first-time winners like Wesley Bryan at the RBC Heritage and Adam Hadwin at the Valspar Championship. We saw Sergio Garcia, 37, break out in his 74th major championship start at the Masters; Jimmy Walker cop his first major at the PGA Championship at age 37 (in his 18th major start); and Henrik Stenson prevail at the Open at Troon at age 40 (42nd major start). Even Dustin Johnson’s U.S. Open triumph at Oakmont had a breakthrough quality.
No one plays in a vacuum on TOUR, and indeed these breakthroughs seem to be contagious. The unspoken message to Chappell and anyone else looking to persevere after years of close calls: If those other guys can do it, why not me?
2. There’s a lot of golf to be played between now and Sept. 21, but Chappell jumped from 113th to 21st in the FedExCup standings and took a giant leap toward the season-ending TOUR Championship. That could be significant in light of his T2 finish at East Lake last year. “I feel like I have some unfinished business there,” he said.
Also on his radar: The Presidents Cup at Liberty National, the following week. Chappell jumped from 19th to fifth on the U.S. points table.
3. Brooks Koepka and Tony Finau have long been similar players, with the 6-foot Koepka fifth on TOUR in driving distance (308.1) and the 6-foot-4 Finau tied for ninth (305.9). They rode their towering drives and solid all-around games to a runner-up and a T3, respectively, at the Valero.
Each was searching for his second TOUR win, and each shot as low as 7-under 65 at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course, tied for best of the week — Koepka on Sunday, Finau on Friday.
Alas, each tied for 50th in driving accuracy (53.57%) at the Valero, with Finau driving into cactus trouble at the par-5 18th on Sunday on the way to a particularly painful bogey.
Asked what he was looking forward to about teaming up with his brother Chase at this week’s Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Koepka said, “He actually hits fairways.”
4. Sung Kang continues to look like an intriguing prospect for International captain Nick Price at the Presidents Cup, Sept. 28-Oct. 1.
Although he didn’t move up from 25th on the points table, Kang birdied the last three holes Sunday to shoot 68 and finish T6. In his previous two starts he finished T11 at the RBC Heritage and second at the Shell Houston Open, where he made over 300 feet of putts over the first two days. Kang has no wins in 97 career TOUR starts, but he’s certainly knocking on the door.
Meanwhile, the good times keep rolling for Korea, as D.H. Lee won the Web.com Tour’s United Leasing & Finance Championship, edging Jason Gore by a shot in windy conditions in Indiana.
5. Things are also trending up for Kevin Tway, 28, whose T3 finish marked the best result of his career by a wide margin. His previous best result: T26 at the 2014 Travelers Championship.
“It was good — I got off to a good start,” said Tway, who has made 17 cuts in 44 TOUR starts, and whose final-round 69 at the Valero included a double-bogey at the sixth hole. “I had a little hiccup, which was unfortunate. Hung in there after that and pretty pleased with how I played.”
Tway’s father, Bob, the 1986 PGA Championship winner, finished T16 with partner Tom Pernice, Jr., in the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf on the PGA TOUR Champions on Sunday. A victory by Kevin would have made them the 10th father-son duo to win on TOUR.
“I've always known I was good,” Kevin said. “I just kind of get in my own way sometimes.”
1. Chappell’s 12-under total was this season’s third-highest winning sum, behind only Garcia at the Masters (9 under) and Marc Leishman at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard (11 under). That’s three of the last six tournaments on TOUR that have given players some of the toughest scoring conditions they’ll face all season.
2. Want to win on the PGA TOUR? Play from behind. Although Chappell converted after leading by one over John Huh and Branden Grace going into the final round, he became just the 10th player to carry the lead/co-lead to victory in 23 events so far this season.
3. Chappell said he played with a sense of calm Sunday. He’d been there before. He has two kids, and hard-won perspective. What does that look like, statistically speaking? He hit 10 fairways and 15 greens in regulation — his best all week in both categories. That stress-free golf from tee to green may have freed him up to make the freighted putt of his career on 18. Another impressive Chappell stat: He was second in strokes gained: approach-the-green, and of his tournament-leading 22 birdies for the week, 15 came from less than 10 feet.
4. Koepka made 121 feet of putts Sunday, and more than 329 feet of putts for the week. (For context, Russell Henley converted on 541 feet, 10 inches worth of putts in winning the recent Shell Houston Open.) Koepka also led the field in putts per green in regulation. He putted well.
Still, the runner-up was left to rue a missed birdie try from just over 4 feet at the par-5 14th hole. “It was the worst putt I’ve hit all week, or a long time,” said Koepka, who was warming up for a possible playoff when Chappell made birdie on 18 to win by one.
5. Sometimes the “other winners” are hidden in plain sight. No one went bogey-free with TPC San Antonio playing to a 74.342 average Saturday, and just one player did when it played to a 73.158 average on Sunday: Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, whose final-round 67 gave him a T13 finish, by far the best result this season for the likeable 36-year-old Spaniard.
Brendan Steele (T62) didn’t contend for the trophy, either, but made his 17th straight cut — the longest active made-cuts streak on TOUR.
TOP THREE VIDEOS
1. Hole-outs like this get reactions like this.
Shot of the Day
Ken Duke's fired up eagle is the Shot of the Day
2. Wedge gem? You bet.
Jimmy Walker's fantastic hole out from the bunker at Valero
3. What an honor for Masters champion Sergio Garcia.
The Spaniard was honored at El Clasico, a soccer match between rivals Real Madrid and FC Barcelona, in front of 80,000 fans in Spain on Sunday.
Garcia walked onto the pitch in his Green Jacket and took the honorary kickoff -- the equivalent of throwing out the first pitch in a baseball game.
A top shot, indeed.
Sergio Garcia guest stars at La Liga El Clasico soccer match