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Hot putter propels Chappell into final group

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DUBLIN, Ohio – While many players struggled Saturday with swirling winds at Muirfield Village, Kevin Chappell thrived, firing a 4-under 68 that tied J.J. Henry for low round of the day while moving him into a tie for second place. Chappell’s round was largely sparked by an unlikely asset: a hot putter.

The former UCLA standout entered this week ranked 154th on the PGA Tour in strokes gained putting, but Saturday needed just 24 putts on a day where greens in regulation were a precious commodity. After the round, Chappell noted that his putting has been a focus for several weeks.

“I didn’t feel like I was searching in all areas,” said Chappell, who missed five consecutive cuts earlier this season. “I hadn’t putted that great all year and really feel like since The Players Championship I’ve putted it pretty good … and that’s helped regain some momentum.”

While perhaps unknown to many PGA Tour fans, Chappell has made a name for himself largely in the season’s second major. Two years ago he tied for third at the U.S. Open at Congressional, and the 26-year-old followed that up with a tie for 10th last year at The Olympic Club. With a trip to Merion on the horizon, he noted an effort to tailor his game recently for success under U.S. Open conditions.

“It’s all about the 5- 7-footers for par and to keep rounds moving. That’s where the focus has been,” said Chappell, whose best finish this season has been a tie for sixth at the Shell Houston Open. “Last week I didn’t miss a putt inside of 5 feet. That helps knowing that if I can chip this ball inside of 5 feet, I’ve got a good chance of getting up and down.”

With several top-ranked players unable to cope with the firm conditions and swirling winds Saturday at Muirfield Village, Chappell was able to move up 13 places on the leaderboard, earning a spot in Sunday’s final group thanks to five birdies and just a single dropped shot. After the round, he noted a sense of enjoyment from the result, but also likened Saturday’s battle against constantly shifting winds to stepping inside the ring.

“I mean, I guess it’s like a prize fighter,” he added. “He enjoys winning, but I don’t know if he enjoys getting hit that much.”