If time is running out for Kevin Chappell’s career, so be it. He is at peace.
At least that’s what he said at the Sony Open on Thursday, where he opened with a score of under 763 in one of his last starts on a major medical stretch.
It’s been a trying few years for Chappell, now 35, who underwent back surgery in late 2018 and struggled to get back in shape. He has five events left, including this week, on his major medical exam, and he must earn 128 FedExCup points to meet that requirement and keep his card. A top 4 this week would do just that. A top 20 would place him in the No. 126-150 category and allow him to play with conditional status.
Whether that actually happens this spring, well, Chappell doesn’t insist.
“What is supposed to be will be,” he told reporters after his first round left him two behind defending champion Kevin Na. “If I’m not supposed to play this game anymore, that’s fine with me.” I’m going to put my head down and play the best I can the next five events.
Would he seriously consider retiring?
“When you run out of tee times, what are you going to do,” he said.
Six years ago, Chappell’s career looked like it was about to take off. During the 2016 season, he finished second four times and placed eighth-career best at FedExCup. The following year, he won his first Tour tournament, at the Texas Open. But his body soon started to deteriorate, and in late 2018, struggling to walk, he announced he was undergoing a microdiscectomy. He missed the next 10 months.
He doesn’t regret the back surgery – it was necessary – but rather the way he handled the recovery. “The way I handled this was completely wrong and completely upside down,” he said, “and I wish I had really tackled the mental side at that point and taken the time to work. on myself as a person and let the golf unfold. ” He said he had “worked my ass”, not just physically but mentally, with the help of a psychologist. “Doing it a little unorthodox,” he said, “and that was great. ”
Add a few more factors (stopping COVID, a third child, another injury setback), and it’s easy to see how his Tour career has become in jeopardy. He has only one top 10 in his last 31 starts.
He missed his first three cups to start the new season, but at home he saw more speed and ball control. This translated into the first day at Waialae, where his first 63 was his lowest lap on the Tour since his 59 at the 2019 Greenbrier.
“I wasn’t expecting it, but I’m not surprised,” he said. “I have seen some good things at home and I am really proud of the work I have done. “