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Phelan M. Ebenhack

Chappell has done everything except win

Profile image for By Doug Ferguson
By Doug Ferguson

ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. — Offer one mulligan to Kevin Chappell for the last year and the rules are bound to be broken.

He mentioned the tee shot on the 18th hole at Bay Hill that was buried in deep rough and forced him to lay up, and he finished one shot behind Jason Day. He mentioned the tee shot on the 17th hole at East Lake that missed the fairway by two steps and sunk to the bottom of the Bermuda rough, leading to an untimely bogey at the Tour Championship that cost him the lead.

Halfway through talking about the tee shot on the 18th in regulation at East Lake, he was reminded he could take only one shot back.

“I know, I know,” Chappell replied.

“How about 18 at Bay Hill?” he said after a long pause. “If I handled that situation differently, maybe the other two don’t happen.”

It’s easy to think about everything that didn’t go Chappell’s way over the last year because he is still searching for his first PGA Tour victory going into the RSM Classic at Sea Island, the final official PGA Tour event of the year.

The 30-year-old Californian doesn’t see it that way.

He was runner-up three times against some of the strongest fields, losing to the top two players in the world without doing much wrong. Jason Day beat him at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship, and Rory McIlroy beat Chappell and Ryan Moore at the Tour Championship.

Chappell rose to No. 28 in the world and went places he had never been. He played in the World Golf Championships for the first time, at the Bridgestone Invitational (tie for third behind Dustin Johnson) and the HSBC Champions. He made his inaugural trip to the British Open. He’ll make his debut in the Masters next year.

Missing from that itinerary is Kapalua for the winners-only Tournament of Champions.

“The competitor in me never wants to get that close that many times and not close,” Chappell said. “In the long run, that might be a great thing.”

He mentioned the patience of Steve Stricker and the relatively slow start by Day, the No. 1 player in the world who won just one time in his first six years on tour. Chappell finished last season at No. 8 on the money list with just over $4.5 million.

It’s hard to get hung up on the negatives.

“It can never be a bad thing to play that much good golf,” Chappell said.

If he were to win this week — he was runner-up a year ago to Kevin Kisner — he won’t go to Kapalua because his wife, Elizabeth, is due to give birth to their second child in January. Chappell’s final event of the year is the Franklin Templeton Shootout, another perk to having a big year.