Golf is a hard game; putting together a good round, especially good to the tune of 9-under and a new course record at a PGA Tour venue, is hard – and even harder is to do it again the next day.
Saturday afternoon at the Barclays Championship, contested August 22 – 25 at Liberty National Golf Club in Jersey City, NJ, Fresno native Kevin Chappell did the first of those things, going around the par-71 layout that sits on the Jersey Shore, virtually in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, in a course record sixty-two. His opening nine (the back nine – he started on #10) went by in a creditable, but not remarkable, bogey-free 3-under 32, but Chappell was just warming up. The 2008 UCLA graduate opened his second nine with a birdie at the par-4 first hole, parred #2, then went on a tear, racking up four straight birdies before closing out his round par-birdie-par to go 32-30 – 62.
Asked afterwards if the round was the best he had ever played, Chappell responded, “We play so many rounds of golf. It’s hard to rank them. But it was a great round of golf. It was exactly what I needed to get back in the golf tournament… I’m excited that I was able to get the ball rolling in the right direction for a change.”
The low round set off a lot of speculation that Chappell, who was ranked #58 in the FedEx Cup standings coming into the tournament, would follow up the record-setting round with another low number and join fellow Fresnoan Derek Ernst as a first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2013. Unfortunately, the mojo that Chappell had captured on Saturday fled before Sunday’s final round. Paired with Tiger Woods in the final round, Chappell played clean but unspectacular golf on the front side, birdying the par-5 eighth hole to turn in 1-under. He opened the back nine with another birdie, at #10, a par-4, to go to 2-under, but then fell into a bad stretch.
A double-bogey at the par-3 eleventh hole gave back the two strokes he had gained earlier, then three more bogeys and a double between holes 12 and 17 ate into the cushion he had built up the previous day and dropped him out of contention. The closing round 76 dropped Chappell twelve spots down the leaderboard, but his tournament total of 68-72-62-76 – 278 and eventual T-15 finish was enough to move him up the FedEx Cup points board from #58 to #43, assuring him of a place in the field at the upcoming Deutsche Bank Championship at TPC Boston.
The $132,000 payday Chappell earned for his week’s work will come in handy in a few weeks – he is going to be married September 28.
Sacramento-area native Nick Watney, a former Fresno State Bulldog, went about things a bit more quietly than Kevin Chappell last weekend, but his very consistent 68-70-69-69 –276 was good enough for T-9 and a big move up the FedEx Cup board, from #63 to #35. Fresno’s Derek Ernst, a rookie on the Tour this year who grabbed the brass ring at the Wells Fargo Championship in May with a strong-finishing victory, missed the cut at Liberty National, but slid only 9 spots as a result. Dropping from #74 on the Fedex Cup board to #83, Ernst is still in it for the next round – the top 100 on the board move on from the Barclays to TPC Boston next week for the Deutsche Bank Championship.
Things will get tighter at TPC Boston, where only the top 70 will advance to the no-cut BMW Championship at Cog Hill, near Chicago, the following week. Though advancement to Cog Hill guarantees a paycheck, only the top 30 will advance from there to the Tour Championship the following week, at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.