(Getty Images photo)
BENTON HARBOR, Mich. - For three nights running, Roger Chapman has eaten dinner with a book and his thoughts at the Grande Mere Inn in nearby Stevensville.
He was planning a fourth visit Saturday night. And why not?
Chapman's third round of the 73rd Senior PGA Championship was his best yet at the GC of Harbor Shores, a brilliant, seven-under 64 that put him at 14-under and five strokes ahead of John Cook after 54 holes.
The Englishman's 54-hole total of 199 matched the championship record held by Sam Snead, and his ball-striking today would have been something the Slammer would have admired. Chapman, utilizing what he described as the best iron play of his life, peppered the flagsticks throughout the day and holed a pair of 25-foot birdie putts to boot.
"It was pretty special," Chapman said. "Coming here I had no real expectations, but I knew I was playing OK and everything the first three rounds has gone really well for me."
He has hit 48 of 54 greens through 54 holes, the type of golf that makes one wonder why he only won once during his long European Tour career.
That victory, in the 2000 Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open over Padraig Harrington in a playoff, came on his 472nd start. He never won again, and at 53 is still looking for his first win on the European senior circuit after playing a truncated schedule on the Champions Tour last year.
At Harbor Shores, Chapman has looked like he is on cruise control. "He's swinging the club beautifully, and his distance control has been spot on," said Cook, who was grouped with Chapman Saturday. "And he's used those ridges [on the greens] perfectly. It really was a great round to watch. If he keeps swinging the way he is right now, it's going to be tough. Somebody's going to have to shoot something very low."
Harbor Shores has a lot of trouble, but so far Chapman has avoided most of it with rounds of 68, 67 and today's course-record tying 64. His challenge will be to stay clear of it again tomorrow, even with the comfortable cushion starting the day. After Cook at nine under, Steve Pate and Hale Irwin are tied for third place, seven shots behind the leader, with Joel Edwards another stroke back in fifth place.
"There's a lot of trouble out there," Cook said. "If you don't quite have it, it can make you look silly."
Through 54 holes, Chapman has simply looked superb.
- -- Bill Fields *