SAN ANTONIO, Texas Steve DiMeglio (AP) Last week Kevin Chappell was at home to celebrate his son’s second birthday.
Now the two can celebrate Dad’s first PGA Tour title.
Chappell knocked in an 8-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole Sunday at TPC San Antonio to top Brooks Koepka by one shot, win the Valero Texas Open and end his 0-for-179 title drought on the PGA Tour.
Chappell’s son Wyatt, infant daughter Collins and wife Elizabeth, came onto the green to make for a memorable family embrace moments after he capped the perfect week with a perfect putt. With his 4-under-par 68, he wound up at 12 under.
“I’m just excited I don’t have to answer that question anymore — ‘When are you going to win?’” said Chappell, 30, who finished runner-up four times last season, including twice to Jason Day and once to Rory McIlroy. “I was really calm all day. I never freaked out.”
Especially when he reached the par-5 18th. To avoid a playoff, Chappell was forced to birdie the last after Koepka, who played three groups ahead of Chappell, made a birdie of his own on the same hole to grab a share of the lead. Koepka spun a wedge to 3 feet, knocked in the putt and waited to see if a playoff would be needed.
Chappell made sure there would be no extra holes. After a fine drive, he laid up to 88 yards and then wedged to 8 feet. Now he’s thinking about getting his second win and making his first Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup teams.
He never lost faith during the winless stretch, and becoming a father changed his attitude and priorities, and with it, his game.
“That’s been the biggest thing of my success as of late, golf doesn’t really matter. I’ve become a dad,” he said. “I wouldn’t say the near-misses got me discouraged. I was always encouraged by my play and all six of the second-place finishes. One thing I didn’t do a good job of was enjoy those very much. And so when I do struggle I really am miserable, and I think that’s what the key to today moving forward is, is really enjoy this moment and enjoy being a PGA Tour winner because there’s no guarantees out here.”
Chappell, who finished in a tie for seventh in the Masters in his previous start, began the day with the first 54-hole outright lead of his career. He was composed and relaxed throughout the sun-splashed final round that started with 18 players within four shots of the lead, including 10 within two shots. The Texas shootout continued in the final round as four players — Chappell, Koepka, Branden Grace and Kevin Tway — all had a share of the lead at some point. Chappell never fell out of the top spot, however, despite multiple charges throughout. He offset two bogeys with six birdies.
Koepka didn’t plan on playing this week, but with his game on the upswing after an early-season swoon (he missed four cuts in six starts), he decided to play after notching finishes of ninth and 11th in his last two starts. It’s a good thing he changed his mind. He birdied five of his first eight holes Sunday and made three more on the back nine to offset his only bogey on the ninth to shoot 65. If he looks back, he’ll remember the short birdie putts missed on 14 and 17.
“It’s hard to win out here. I think everybody knows that. But I’m playing well. I feel like I’m really knocking on the door of getting the second win and hopefully it comes soon,” Koepka said. “ … You appreciate it every time you win because it’s so hard. (Chappell’s) an unbelievable player. You look at all the stuff he’s done, it’s pretty impressive and it’s kind of amazing that he hasn’t won, how good he’s played. I’m happy for him, to get the first win out of the way and, you know, hopefully for the next few years we’ll be battling it out.”
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