Kevin Chappell started this week’s Ford Wayne Gretzky Classic by setting his sights on reaching last year’s winning score of 20 under par. After 36 holes, the former UCLA All-America is already within one of his original goal and needing to redo his math.
Chappell has been exceptional during the opening two rounds, posting scores of 61-63 for a record-breaking total of 124, the lowest opening 36-hole score in the Nationwide Tour’s 21-year history. Chappell’s eye-popping 19 under par score also matches the Tour record for most strokes under par after 36 holes. Webb Simpson reached 19 under at the 2008 Chattanooga Classic but wound up losing a playoff to Arjun Atwal.
“It’s out there but you still have to hit the shots and make the putts,” said Chappell, who is trying to become the Tour’s first double-winner this season. “The lower you get, the harder it is to keep shooting lower because you’ve got to hit it closer to the hole. It’s strictly the odds -- the further you are away from the hole, the less you have a chance of making it.”
Chappell has been all over the cup and has nearly distanced himself from the field in the pro-am event.
Vermont rookie Keegan Bradley set the Georgian Bay Club (GB) course record with a 10-under 61 Friday morning to take the early clubhouse lead at 16 under par.
Chappell had an afternoon tee time and was five shots back before he reached the first tee. Slow and steady, the 2008 Jack Nicklaus Award winner inched his way closer as the day progressed. He rolled in a 12-footer for birdie at No. 1 to get the party started. A tap-in at No. 6 and a two-putt birdie from 35 feet at the par-5 seventh hole got him within two.
He added back-to-back birdies at Nos. 12 and 13, the latter being another two-putt on a par 5, to tie Bradley for the lead. After missing makeable birdie putts of 12 and 10 feet on his next two holes, Chappell raced to the front with three straight to finish the day with an 8-under 63. His last birdie at the par-5 18th from 25 feet is his longest made putt in two days.
“For me the goal was to not make a bogey, that’s always my Achilles heel,” he said. “I always make plenty of birdies and I knew if I could keep the blemishes off the card, things would take care of themselves.”
Chapell has been nearly perfect during his opening rounds and is bogey-free thus far.
“You hit at a lot more flags and I think the greens are a little slower than they want them to be because of the (overnight) rain,” said Chappell, who has missed three fairways and four greens in two days. “I don’t think 20 under will win this golf tournament, I’ll tell you that. I have to get there before I can worry about getting to 21.”
Chappell leads Bradley by three shots heading into the weekend. David Branshaw fired an 8-under 64 at the Raven Golf Club (RA), the other course used in the rotation, and at 13-under 130 is the only other player with seven of the leader.
James Hahn (69/GB), 2008 champion Justin Hicks (68/GB) and transplanted Texan Bobby Gates (67/GB) share fourth place at 11-under 132, eight back of the leader. Five more players, including Canadians Adam Hadwin (69/GB) and David Morland IV (66/RA), are at 10-under 133.
“I’ve played some good golf this year and I knew it was coming,” said the 24-year old Chappell, who celebrated his birthday on Thursday. “I got in some great work this past week with my coach, Nick Bradley, at Liberty National in New York. We tried to tidy things up and I really didn’t have any loose ends coming into the week. We tried to create a good game plan and let’s see where it takes me.”
It’s taken him to record numbers thus far and will take him to the PGA Tour in 2011. Chappell won the Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae back in April and stands No. 3 on the 2010 money list. The 25 leading money-winners will move onto the PGA Tour next year and Chappell’s $212,921 total will be enough to land one of the coveted 25 spots. The only question left to answer is where he winds up on the final list after the Tour Championship finishes on Halloween.
Bradley is No. 95 on the money list and a good showing this week could help his cause considerably, just as Friday’s 61 did.
“It’s definitely one of the best rounds I’ve ever had,” said Bradley, who also shot a 61 in the second round of the BWM Charity Pro-Am two months ago. “The putter got extremely hot. From about number seven to 15 the hole looked as big as a trash can.”
Bradley was 9 under during that nine-hole stretch thanks to seven birdies and an eagle and his mind started to wander.
“After I made birdie at 15, for the first time in my career, I thought I had a chance to shoot 59,” he said. “You’re probably supposed to say that you push it (59) out of your head but it was fun at the time. I shot 61 at BMW but I was making birdies late so it never crossed my mind. It was fun to actually have it come into my head, which is really, really fun so I tried to embrace it.”
Second-Round Notes: A total of 62 players made the 36-hole cut, which came at 6-under 137. That total matches the lowest score for a cut in Tour history. This is the 10th time that a cut has come at such a low number. Three of the previous nine times the cut was 7-under par, with the most recent time the 2006 Chattanooga Classic. … The 160 pro-am teams were cut to exactly the low seven “celebrity” teams and exactly the low five regular teams after 36 holes. Those teams will compete in both the third and fourth rounds. The winning team will each receive a 2011 Ford Fiesta following play on Sunday.
Chappell is seeking to become the first double-winner this season. This is the 14th event on the 2010 Nationwide Tour schedule and there has yet to be a repeat winner. The 14 starts marks the fourth-longest stretch in Tour history. In 1996, it took 23 events before anyone chalked up two wins (Michael Christie). In 1998 it took 16 events and in 1995 and 2008 it took 15 events. … Scott Dunlap (64-70-134/-9) has missed only one green in regulation through 36 holes. He has hit 35 of 36 for a percentage of 97.22%. Dunlap was perfect (18 of 18) during a 7-under 64 at Georgian Bay on Thursday and went 14 holes Friday at Raven Golf Club before he finally missed. Dunlap’s third shot wound up in a greenside bunker at the par-5 sixth hole but he got up-and-down for a par 5.
Chris Mundorf (72-71--143) and Kevin Kisner (68-71--139) both missed the 36-hole cut despite hitting 26 of 27 fairways during the first two rounds and leading the field in that category. … Keegan Bradley’s 127 total matches the 12th lowest opening 36-hole score in Nationwide Tour history. In addition to Chappell’s record-setting 124 score, two players -- Jason Gore and Webb Simpson -- have carded 125s to begin tournaments, while eight others have carded totals of 126. Bradley is one of 10 who are in the books with a total of 127.