Kevin Chappell shares the lead with Lee Westwood and Ryan Palmer after the opening round of the 2014 USPGA Championship at Valhalla
By Robin Barwick
Kevin Chappell, the American golfer sharing the clubhouse lead with Lee Westwood in the first round of the 2014 PGA Championship, is the most unexpected first-round leader in this tournament since India’s Jeev Milkha Singh shared the lead with Sweden’s Robert Karlsson in 2008 at Oakland Hills.
To say Chappell has come in from the golfing wilderness is an under-statement. Even the PGA Championship players’ guide takes the focus away from Chappell in his own biography, explaining that he was school friends with Cleveland Indians shortstop Jason Donald, and the guide goes on to remind us that Donald was traded to the Indians from the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008. Thanks for that.
Chappell has so little form it is a surprise he qualified for the PGA Championship this week at all. He only scraped into the 156-man field because of his world ranking of 104 at the end of July. It has since edged up to 107.
The 28-year-old from Fresno, California, joined the PGA Tour in 2011 but he is yet to win, and in his PGA Championship debut last year at Oak Hill he missed the cut. This season, Chappell has played in 24 PGA Tour events already, making the cut 18 times and notching a single top-10 finish – tied for 10th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational in May. He is ranked 71st in the FedEx Cup, mainly thanks to the fact he plays more that almost everyone else.
The only scrap of major form Chappel has shown has come in the US Open; he finished in a tie for third in 2011 at Congressional after a final round of 66, and then followed up by finishing in a tie for 10th the following year at The Olympic Club.
“I was in a good rhythm,” said Chappell after his round today, in which his immaculate scorecard shows three birdies on each side, without a single dropped shot. “I hit a lot of greens and gave myself some opportunities and I was able to take advantage – something that has not happened a lot for me this year.”
This is Chappell’s first time at Valhalla, and he does not even remember the 2008 Ryder Cup here, when he was 22 and contemplating a career on tour.
“I don’t really remember [the 2008 Ryder Cup],” admits Chappell, who starred for UCLA’s golf team. “It must have been when I was in college, so I was losing some brain cells”.
Robin Barwick travelled to the PGA Championship courtesy of Mercedes-Benz. Mercedes-Benz is the official car of the PGA Championship