Chaplet earns Masters berth with gutsy LAAC win

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 17, 2016, 11:26 pm

LA ROMANA, Dominican Republic – With a memorable performance this week at the Latin America Amateur Championship, Paul Chaplet hoped to persuade a few more college coaches to take a leap of faith, to extend the 832nd-ranked amateur in the world a scholarship to play in the U.S.

Prior to this week, only four coaches had sent the 16-year-old senior-to-be an offer.

There should be plenty more now.

With gut-check pars on three of the last four holes, Chaplet emerged from the Teeth of the Dog’s brutal closing stretch with his lead intact, his 2-under 70 in windy conditions good enough for a dramatic one-shot victory Sunday over Venezuela’s Jorge Garcia.

When Garcia’s 10-footer to tie missed low, Chaplet wrapped his arms around fellow Costa Rican Alvaro E. Ortiz, his 47-year-old mentor and frequent championship nemesis.

“I’m so proud,” Ortiz whispered into his ear.

Around and around they spun in the clubhouse, their eyes welling with tears, until a tournament official stepped in and ushered them back toward the 18th green. After spotting countryman Jose Mendez and fill-in caddie Andres Russi near the manual scoreboard, the normally reserved Chaplet took off on a dead sprint. During the group hug he was doused with a bottle of Cool Heaven water – fitting, for this title sent Chaplet to the 80th Masters, as well as the final stage of qualifying at both the U.S. Open and Open Championship. He’ll be the first Costa Rican to play at Augusta National, and, at 16 years, 8 months and 29 days, the second-youngest participant in history.

“A child’s dream, really,” he said afterward.

Starting the final round four shots behind Gaston Bertinotti of Argentina, Chaplet ripped off three birdies in his first eight holes to pass the leaders. His most important shot was his third at the par-5 14th, the last gettable hole at the Teeth of the Dog. Long and left of the green, he played his chip shot perfectly, bumping his ball into the bank and winding up with a tap-in birdie to regain the outright lead.

Of course, this was the same position he enjoyed a day earlier, only he imploded coming home: A 4-iron into the water on 15 led to a triple; a snap hook off the tee on 17 that could (and probably should) have led to a score worse than bogey; and a gutsy 8-footer for par on the last just to salvage an under-par total.

Yet Chaplet’s only mistake Sunday came on the par-3 16th, which was playing into a brutal hook wind, with the Caribbean Sea to the right and bunkers all down the left side. His tee shot rode the wind and landed in the back bunker, leaving a particularly daunting shot, given the stakes: With just a one-shot cushion, he needed to clear another bunker but stay short of the water that loomed over the back. Deciding to limit the damage, he smartly splashed out short of the green, then did well to two-putt for bogey. Routine pars on the last two holes set a 3-under target.

Tied for the lead in the 17th fairway, Garcia, a freshman at Florida with a sparkling amateur record, was in between clubs and pushed his 8-iron into the greenside bunker. Unable to get up and down for par, he needed to hole a last-gasp 10-footer for birdie on 18 to force a playoff, but he opened the blade and shoved it right, a familiar refrain during the final day. About 100 yards away, the celebration was already underway in the clubhouse.

“There’s no way I could have lost this tournament putting just OK,” Garcia said.

He wasn’t the only contender who left paradise frustrated.

George Trujillo climbed within a shot of the lead, only to play the last three holes in 3 over.

Alejandro Tosti, the runner-up from a year ago who was back in the final group, shot 74 and didn’t factor on the back nine.

Nicolas Echavarria, the 36-hole leader, posted a second consecutive 77, which included a back-nine 42 Sunday.

Yet none of that compared to the travails of Bertinotti, the overnight leader. Unable to sleep Saturday night, he went for a walk at 2 a.m. to clear his head. He finally fell asleep at 3 and conked out until 8:30, when he was finally stirred by a text from his national coach:

Where are you?

Bertinotti had overslept for his 9:28 tee time, and he rushed to the range for an abbreviated warm-up session. Perhaps not surprisingly, he went out in 40 and carded a final-round 77, ultimately tying for sixth.

“I don’t think it had anything to do with it,” he said of his hurried start. “It was a tough day for everybody. Others just did a better job of controlling themselves than I did.”

That it was Chaplet who emerged victorious might have been the biggest surprise.

Of the 4.6 million people in Costa Rica, only an estimated 3,500 are golfers. There are 11 courses, though fortuitously, Chaplet’s home club, Valle del Sol, is only a 10-minute drive from his family’s home.  

He started to play only six years ago, so he could keep up with his mother and sister. The hook was set early. Oftentimes, he would wake at 6 a.m. to practice with his friends, then go to school and play again until dark. Sleepovers usually included eight or nine kids from the Costa Rican Golf Federation, because they wanted to eat, sleep and play golf together.

“They are a small community,” said Rodrigo Cordero, the vice president of the federation.  

Success has been slow and steady, and most of Chaplet’s titles have come when he handed Ortiz a loss in the stroke- and match-play championships in Costa Rica. Over the past few years, Ortiz has been instrumental in Chaplet’s development, showing him how to travel, teaching him how to handle pressure and adversity, offering tips on equipment and fitness.

“It’s really nice,” Ortiz said, “when it all works out how you plan and think about for what you’d like to see in the future.”

Chaplet’s future has never seemed so promising.

Despite a few high finishes in the States – a U.S. Kids Championship in the 15-18 age division, a seventh-place showing at the Junior Worlds, a few spot starts on the AJGA – Chaplet has been lightly recruited by college golf coaches.

Chaplet said that four schools have extended offers so far, but Minnesota’s assistant coach, Justin Smith, was here all week, in the school’s bright yellow polo, cheering on fellow Costa Rican Mendez and keeping tabs on Chaplet.

“The phone is going to be ringing, the emails are going to be coming,” Ortiz said. “It’s going to be overwhelming, and he’s going to need to organize himself and analyze what’s coming up.”

Most imminent, of course, is the Masters, a tournament that – showing his age here – he said he first watched four years ago, in 2012, when Bubba Watson won his first green jacket.

In his winner’s news conference, Chaplet was asked who would be on his bag that week.

“I think my caddie is sitting right here somewhere,” he said with a smile, pointing at Russi, his childhood friend who had agreed to loop for the final round here because he knew Chaplet’s game so well.

Expectations for the Masters will be low, but that’s to be expected after a performance that changed everything and surprised many, even those who know his game best.

“I came into this tournament knowing I had a chance if I played my best golf, and this just proves to me that I can,” Chaplet said. “That’s really all that matters.”

Getty Images

How to watch The Open on TV and online

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:40 am

You want to watch the 147th Open? Here’s how you can do it.

Golf Channel and NBC Sports will be televising 182 hours of overall programming from the men's third major of the year at Carnoustie

In addition to the traditional coverage, the two networks will showcase three live alternate feeds: marquee groups, featured holes (our new 3-hole channel) and spotlight action. You can also watch replays of full-day coverage, Thursday-Sunday, in the Golf Channel app, NBC Sports apps, and on  

Here’s the weekly TV schedule, with live stream links in parentheses. You can view all the action on the Golf Channel mobile, as well. Alternate coverage is noted in italics:

(All times Eastern; GC=Golf Channel; NBC=NBC Sports; or check the GLE app)

Monday, July 16

GC: 7-9AM: Morning Drive (

GC: 9-11AM: Live From The Open (

GC: 7-9PM: Live From The Open (

Tuesday, July 17

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Wednesday, July 18

GC: 6AM-2PM: Live From The Open (

Thursday, July 19

GC: Midnight-1:30AM: Midnight Drive (

GC: Day 1: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 1: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 1: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Friday, July 20

GC: Day 2: The Open, live coverage: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Spotlight: 1:30AM-4PM ( Day 2: The Open, Marquee Groups: 4AM-3PM ( Day 2: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 4AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 4-5PM (

Saturday, July 21

GC: Day 3: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 3: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-3PM ( Day 3: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-3PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 3-4PM (

Sunday, July 22

GC: Day 4: The Open, live coverage: 4:30-7AM (

NBC: Rd. 4: The Open, live coverage: 7AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Spotlight: 4:30AM-2:30PM ( Day 4: The Open, Marquee Groups: 5AM-2PM ( Day 4: The Open, 3-Hole Channel: 5AM-2PM (

GC: Live From The Open: 2:30-4PM (

Getty Images

The Open 101: A guide to the year's third major

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 19, 2018, 5:30 am

Take a look at some answers to frequently asked questions about The Open:

What's all this "The Open" stuff? I thought it was the British Open.

What you call it has historically depended on where you were. If you were in the U.S., you called it the British Open, just as Europeans refer to the PGA Championship as the U.S. PGA. Outside the U.S. it generally has been referred to as The Open Championship. The preferred name of the organizers is The Open.

How old is it?

It's the oldest golf championship, dating back to 1860.

Where is it played?

There is a rotation – or "rota" – of courses used. Currently there are 10: Royal Birkdale, Royal St. George's, Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham and St. Annes, all in England; Royal Portrush in Northern Ireland and St. Andrews, Carnoustie, Royal Troon, Turnberry and Muirfield, all in Scotland. Muirfield was removed from the rota in 2016 when members voted against allowing female members, but when the vote was reversed in 2017 it was allowed back in.

Where will it be played this year?

At Carnoustie, which is located on the south-eastern shore of Scotland.

Who has won The Open on that course?

Going back to the first time Carnoustie hosted, in 1931, winners there have been Tommy Armour, Henry Cotton (1937), Ben Hogan (1953), Gary Player (1968), Tom Watson (1975), Paul Lawrie (1999), Padraig Harrington (2007).

Wasn't that the year Hogan nearly won the Slam?

Yep. He had won the Masters and U.S. Open that season, then traveled to Carnoustie and won that as well. It was the only time he ever played The Open. He was unable to play the PGA Championship that season because the dates conflicted with those of The Open.

Jean Van de Velde's name should be on that list, right?

This is true. He had a three-shot lead on the final hole in 1999 and made triple bogey. He lost in a playoff to Lawrie, which also included Justin Leonard.

Who has won this event the most?

Harry Vardon, who was from the Channel Island of Jersey, won a record six times between 1896 and 1914. Australian Peter Thomson, American Watson, Scot James Braid and Englishman J.H. Taylor each won five times.

What about the Morrises?

Tom Sr. won four times between 1861 and 1867. His son, Tom Jr., also won four times, between 1868 and 1872.

Have players from any particular country dominated?

In the early days, Scots won the first 29 Opens – not a shocker since they were all played at one of three Scottish courses, Prestwick, St. Andrews and Musselburgh. In the current era, going back to 1999 (we'll explain why that year in a minute), the scoreboard is United States, nine wins; South Africa, three wins; Ireland, two wins; Northern Ireland, two wins; and Sweden, one win. The only Scot to win in that period was Lawrie, who took advantage of one of the biggest collapses in golf history.

Who is this year's defending champion?

That would be American Jordan Spieth, who survived an adventerous final round to defeat Matt Kuchar by three strokes and earn the third leg of the career Grand Slam.

What is the trophy called?

The claret jug. It's official name is the Golf Champion Trophy, but you rarely hear that used. The claret jug replaced the original Challenge Belt in 1872. The winner of the claret jug gets to keep it for a year, then must return it (each winner gets a replica to keep).

Which Opens have been the most memorable?

Well, there was Palmer in 1961and '62; Van de Velde's collapse in 1999; Hogan's win in 1953; Tiger Woods' eight-shot domination of the 2000 Open at St. Andrews; Watson almost winning at age 59 in 2009; Doug Sanders missing what would have been a winning 3-foot putt at St. Andrews in 1970; Tony Jacklin becoming the first Briton to win the championship in 18 years; and, of course, the Duel in the Sun at Turnberry in 1977, in which Watson and Jack Nicklaus dueled head-to-head over the final 36 holes, Watson winning by shooting 65-65 to Nicklaus' 65-66.

When I watch this tournament on TV, I hear lots of unfamiliar terms, like "gorse" and "whin" and "burn." What do these terms mean?

Gorse is a prickly shrub, which sometimes is referred to as whin. Heather is also a shrub. What the scots call a burn, would also be considered a creek or stream.

Getty Images

Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.