England's Chapman leads Senior PGA
Benton Harbor, MI (Sports Network) - England's Roger Chapman shot a three- under 68 on Thursday to take the first-round lead at the Senior PGA Championship.
Chapman is one stroke clear The Golf Club at Harbor Shores, the site of the first major championship on the 2012 Champions Tour schedule.
John Cook is alone in second after a two-under 69.
Two-time winner Jay Haas, Jeff Sluman, J.L. Lewis, Steve Pate, David Frost and Jim Carter are knotted in third place at one-under 70.
The relatively unheralded Chapman, whose only European Tour victory came at the Brazil Rio de Janeiro 500 Years Open 12 years ago, battled the wind better than anyone on Thursday.
Chapman started well enough with a birdie at the opener, but immediately dropped a shot with a bogey at the second. He made another bogey at the fifth, then caught fire before the turn.
Chapman knocked a nine-iron 30 feet from the hole at No. 7 and rolled in the long birdie try. He was back to even-par and went one-under thanks to a 12- footer for birdie at eight.
At the par-five ninth, Chapman hit a four-iron into a greenside bunker and blasted out to 12 feet. He canned the birdie putt to make it three in a row and get to two-under par for the championship.
The 10th is also a par five at Harbor Shores and Chapman reached in two, albeit in a tough spot. He three-putted for a par and that didn't bother him at all.
"I was on the bottom side and the pin was up top left, so I was probably pleased to three-putt that," acknowledged Chapman.
After the solid par at 10, Chapman was going to hit a 52-degree gap wedge, but didn't want to come up short in the steadily increasing wind. He elected to go with a pitching-wedge, which "of course went to the back of the green." Chapman poured in another long birdie putt, this time from 40 feet to reach three-under par.
Chapman parred his last seven, and considering the difficult conditions, that was just fine.
"Sixteen was playing really tough today. Second shot was four-iron in there, whereas, in practice rounds, we were hitting nine-irons," said Chapman, who hit all 13 fairways on Thursday. "So it was a big difference there.
"It was a solid round. Surprising, really, because we have only played one event in Europe this year, so this is probably my fourth real competitive round this year. So it's a long way to come, a long wait, but I'm very pleased with the way things are going."
Chapman is a European Senior Tour regular, and said the circuit lost some sponsors in Asia. A win this week gives him status on the Champions Tour, or could provide momentum in Europe.
"We have got a nice little run up when we go home next week, so yeah, at least we'll get cracking then," said Chapman.
Four-time champion Hale Irwin, Lonnie Nielsen, Bobby Clampett, Paul Wesselingh, Anders Forsbrand, Jay Don Blake, Mark McNulty and Gene Jones are tied for ninth at even-par 71.
NOTES: Denis Watson, the 2007 champion, was disqualified Thursday...Andy North and Pete Oakley withdrew...Last year's winner, Tom Watson, is not on hand to defend his title due to a wrist injury.
05/24 20:58:42 ET