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Chapman wins US Senior Open to join trio of stars

Roger Chapman had a lot of thoughts running in his head as he closed in on the U.S. Senior Open title.

One of them was proving that his Senior PGA Championship victory wasn't a fluke.

Chapman shot a 4-under 66 on Sunday to win the U.S. Senior Open by two strokes at 10 under at Indianwood. He won the Senior PGA Championship by the same margin two months ago on the other side of Michigan.

"I wanted to prove to myself and to other people that Benton Harbor wasn't a one-off event," he said. "That was in the back of my mind."

Chapman kept his wits after a bogey at 16 gave big-name players on the Champions Tour — Corey Pavin, Tom Lehman, Fred Funk and Bernhard Langer — a chance to potentially catch him.

The 53-year-old Chapman, though, stepped to the potentially pivotal 195-yard, par-3 17th and calmly hit a 5-iron shot that was close enough for a tap-in birdie that restored a two-shot lead.

"I have to say that was my best shot ever played," he said.

Langer (72), Funk (67), Lehman (68) and Pavin (68) finished tied for second at 8-under 272 at the Champions Tour's fourth of five majors. Pavin's two-stroke penalty after his first round for hitting a ball that moved a fraction of an inch proved to be costly.

By holding off senior stars, Chapman earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence with Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and Hale Irwin.

Not bad for a self-described former European Tour journeyman.

Chapman, Nicklaus, Player and Irwin are the only players to win the U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA Championship in the same year.

"It's a true honor," Chapman said.

Player was the first to win the U.S. Senior Open and Senior PGA Championship in the same year back in 1987. Nicklaus did it in 1991, and Irwin pulled off the feat in 1998.

Until Chapman's breakout, his shining moment was beating Padraig Harrington in a playoff for his first European Tour win in his 472nd start on that tour.

The Englishman had a conditional exemption on the Champions Tour in 2010 and lost his status last year, finishing 84th on the money list at less than $90,000 after failing to crack the top 10 in any of his 11 starts.

Chapman received $500,000 for winning the U.S. Senior Open after getting a check for $378,000 for the Senior PGA victory.

"I guess when you read about him, you always hear journeyman or something like that," Pavin said. "But he's always been a very solid player.

"Sometimes, people bloom a little later."

Before this year, his career highlight was a European Tour win in Brazil in 2000.

Entering the final round, it seemed as if the only lingering question was how easily Langer would win.

Langer, though, found out what the first- and second-round leaders — Tom Kite and Lance Ten Broeck — did the previous two days: It's not easy to stay consistent at Indianwood.

Langer took a four-shot lead into the final round and closed with a shaky performance that spoiled his shot at winning his second U.S. Senior Open.

The German said on Saturday if he closed with a 2- or 3-under round, it would be difficult for anyone to catch him. When Langer had a double bogey at No. 2, he gave the field a chance to pass him.

"I knew there was a lot of golf left, and I was still in the lead," he said. "If I shoot under par from that point on, I'll still be in good shape, but I couldn't make a putt."

The wind picked up considerably Sunday — with gusts up to 20 mph — and made it even tougher to keep tee shots on the unforgiving and tight fairways and to accurately approach hard, undulating greens.

Chapman answered the challenge for much of the day with two birdies on the front nine and four through 14 holes. He chunked a shot out of the bunker at 16, leading to a bogey that he made up for on the next hole.

He chose to use his driver at the 462-yard, par-4 18th and got a break when his tee shot was stopped by fans standing along the left ropes. That left him a decent lie in the rough that he took advantage of with an approach that set him up for a two-putt par that sealed the victory.

Chapman had a stunning wire-to-wire win at the Senior PGA Championship. He beat John Cook by two strokes after closing with two bogeys without his wife, Cathy, there to watch because she had to work.

Chapman's wife was with him at Indianwood and gave him a huge hug as he walked off the 18th green. Tears streamed down his sweaty cheeks.

"She's been my rock for 26 years," he said. "It was very special that she was here."

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Follow Larry Lage on Twitter at www.Twitter.com/larrylage