ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Sea Island seems to be a good fit for California native Kevin Chappell.
Chappell had no trouble in a steady wind Friday, holing a 35-foot birdie putt early and holing a 45-yard bunker shot for eagle late in his round of 5-under 65 on the Seaside Course that gave him a one-shot lead going into the weekend at the RSM Classic.
Winless in five-plus years and 143 starts on the PGA Tour, the 29-year-old Chappell gave himself another chance in a tournament where he seems to thrive. He was in the final group going into the weekend at Sea Island in 2013, and was four shots behind at the halfway point last year.
''I think this is the third year in a row I've been near the last group on the weekend,'' he said. ''For me, the sight lines work. The wind tends to blow out of one direction. There are a lot of things that are comforting to me and allow me to play well.''
Chappell was at 11-under 131, one shot clear of Freddie Jacobson, who had a 5-under 67 on the Plantation Course, and Kevin Kisner, who had a 67 at Seaside.
Kisner still hasn't won a PGA Tour event, either, though he gets one more chance in the final PGA Tour event of the year. Kisner already has lost in three playoffs this year, and he picked up a fourth runner-up finish two weeks ago in Shanghai at the HSBC Champions.
He feels he is getting closer than ever.
''In China I told my coach and my caddie it was the first time it was all golf and no nerves,'' Kisner said. ''That's when you know you've done your job.
Dru Love looked like he would make it to the weekend when he was 3 under for the tournament with only seven holes to play. The junior at Alabama wasn't even thinking about the cut line, instead trying to pick up more birdies that would move him closer to the lead. He wound up going the wrong direction.
Love played the final seven holes at Plantation in 7 over, closing with a pair of double bogeys for a 42 on the front nine and a 76 to miss the cut.
''Never crossed my mind just thinking about making the cut,'' he said. ''I think I had more pressure just trying to push forward a little bit. Pushed a little too hard and tried to bomb a drive and made bogey, and just kind of started a downward spiral. Just got to try to stay in the moment a little bit more and quit worrying about the score so much.''
Davis Love III, the tournament host, looked as if he might have more time on his hands the final two rounds with a double bogey at No. 13, his fourth hole. He recovered with a pair of birdies on the par 5s, two more birdies on the front nine and a 70 at Plantation that allowed him to make the cut on the number at 2-under 140.
It was bittersweet to his son pack his bags.
''Today I wish I was caddying,'' Love said. ''I was tempted to do something to disrupt him, because he pulled 2-iron on 3 and it was too much club. He tried to hit a little dinky 2-iron in there and he pulled it over the green in a bad place. If he had hit 4-iron there and hit the middle of the green and got out of there, I think he would have been fine. But he bogeyed there, got mad, swung really hard at the next one trying knock it on in two and made another bogey.
''He's going to be really disappointed for a while,'' the father said. ''He's embarrassed because he knows he can make the cut and play well enough.''
Chappell has played well enough to contend at Sea Island. The next trick is to finish.
The UCLA alum started to stall with a long three-putt bogey on the 12th, and a long wait at the tee on the par-5 15th. His 3-wood missed left into a bunker, leaving a tough shot to a pin at the back on a shelf. Chappell went with a pitching wedge to get it all the way back, and it worked out better than he could imagine.
''I told myself, 'Hit it a little harder than you want,' especially knowing that if it goes over the back of the green it's shaved and you can putt up the hill,'' Chappell said. ''Probably easier than leaving it short and putting it into the wind. Came out perfect.''
DIVOTS: Only four players from the top 20 on the leaderboard already are eligible for the Masters. The winner gets an invitation. The six previous winners during the fall portion of the PGA Tour season were not previously eligible for Augusta National until they won. ... Because 87 players made the cut, there will be a 54-hole cut Saturday.