Chopra Coming into His Own

By Associated PressJanuary 7, 2008, 5:00 pm
2007 Mercedes Benz ChampionshipKAPALUA, Hawaii -- Daniel Chopra was born in Sweden and raised in India, the product of two cultures that has served him well in his travels around the globe to prove himself as a world-class golfer.
 
Three languages roll easily from his tongue. Chopra recalls one practice round on the PGA TOUR when his group included either Arjun Atwal or Jeev Milkha Singh -- both good friends from India -- along with a Swedish player.
 
'I'll speak Swedish to him, Indian to him and English to my caddie,' he said, nodding for emphasis. 'And I remember we had some American guy playing with us and he was like, 'What the hell just happened?''
 
Victories translate in any language, but even Chopra must be wondering about the last few months of his life.
 
Even though he stands out from his heritage and his spiked blond hair, Chopra was an afterthought in the world of golf. Most of his 11 trophies came from the minor leagues, with his biggest two on the Asian Tour against weak fields. It wasn't until Chopra was 31 that he joined the PGA TOUR, and he didn't crack the top 50 on the money list for three years.
 
Chopra went 132 starts before he finally won the Ginn sur Mer Classic at Tesoro against a watered-down field in the Fall Series.
 
The bigger step came Sunday at the winners-only Mercedes-Benz Championship, where his victims include four major champions and seven of the top 15 players in the world. And when he defeated Steve Stricker in a four-hole playoff at Kapalua, it was his second PGA TOUR victory in his last three starts.
 
What just happened?
 
'I don't know,' Chopra said, a purple lei draped around his neck. 'You just need to get comfortable with the situation. I most certainly felt 10 times more comfortable going out there today than I did that final round at Tesoro. I felt more in control. And I'm sure the next time I'm in contention, I'll be even more comfortable.'
 
Chopra referenced the career path of David Duval, a runner-up seven times until he won his first event at Kingsmill toward the end of the 1997 season. Then he won at Disney, and made it three in a row at the TOUR Championship. Duval went on to stardom, and within 18 months had become No. 1 in the world.
 
It's too early to determine whether Chopra has that kind of game, but he can no longer be overlooked.
 
He started the year at No. 120 in the world ranking, and his victory moved him up to No. 61, in range of making his first World Golf Championship in Arizona next month. He'll make his debut in the Masters -- he has only played four majors so far. And most importantly, he moved up to No. 2 in the Ryder Cup standings.
 
Chopra has never given the Ryder Cup much thought, noting that a U.S.-based player from Europe has to rely mainly on world ranking points, and he doesn't consider himself in the same league as players such as Padraig Harrington, Sergio Garcia or Henrik Stenson.
 
But the European system doesn't consider the world ranking, rather ranking points earned since September.
 
Chopra has shown a complete game, and he starts the 2008 on equal footing. The more big tournaments he plays, the more ranking points available, the greater chance he has of making the team.
 
'I have to be among the very elite that Europe has in order to make the team, which is a tough road,' Chopra said. 'But I'm in position now. We'll see what happens.'
 
It didn't hurt that European captain Nick Faldo had a seat in the booth for his season-opening victory doing his TV duties.
 
Chopra wasn't spectacular off the tee, which doesn't matter on a Plantation Course where the fairways are bigger than an L.A. freeway. What surely impressed Faldo was his putting. According to PGA TOUR statistics, he made nine putts over 20 feet.
 
And he probably should have ended the playoff much earlier than four holes.
 
Four times, Chopra hit putts that he thought were pure. A 12-footer on the 18th hole in regulation stopped an inch short. A 7-footer for birdie on the 18th in a playoff somehow stayed out to the right. His 25-foot birdie putt on the second playoff hole was a blade of grass away from falling, much like his 25-foot eagle putt on the fourth and final extra hole.
 
That one didn't matter because Stricker, who took only eight putts on the final holes of regulation and birdied three of the last four, missed the par-5 ninth green to the left, chipped hot some 15 feet by the cup and missed his birdie.
 
It culminated a week of calm and confidence for Chopra, whose worldwide travels have broadened his experience in life and on the golf course. Kapalua requires imagination with its shifting winds and greens that are large, contoured and break severely with the grain.
 
'I was able to use my imagination to read putts. It just comes naturally to me,' Chopra said. 'I can see the slopes, I can see the grain, I can see where the wind is going, and all my years of playing all over the world on different types of greens helps me.'
 
Few players are as worldly as Chopra.
 
Born to a Swedish mother and Indian father, he lived six years in Sweden before a brief stop in England, and his family thought it would be a good idea to experience his heritage in India. When it was time to move back, he didn't want to leave.
 
'The fact I grew up in Indian, my thinking might be a bit more Indian,' Chopra said. 'I think the physical side of me might be a little more Swedish. I feel right down the middle.'
 
And when he's on the course, does he feel more Swedish or more Indian?
 
'Between the ropes, you're just playing golf,' he said. 'You're trying to the do the best you can.'
 
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    Kelly beats Monty with two-shot swing on final hole

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    KAILUA-KONA, Hawaii – Jerry Kelly made an 18-foot birdie putt on the final hole, Colin Montgomerie missed a 6-footer for par and Kelly turned a one-shot deficit into a victory Saturday in the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, the season opener on the PGA Tour Champions.

    After Kelly drove it well right into lava rocks on the par-4 16th, leading to bogey and giving Montgomerie the lead, Montgomerie made a mistake with his tee shot on the last, finding a fairway bunker. Montgomerie's approach went over the green and after Kelly converted his birdie, the 54-year-old Scot jammed his par putt well past the hole.


    Full-field scores from the Mitsubishi Electric Championship


    It was the third win on the over-50 tour for the 51-year-old Kelly, who finished tied for 14th last week at the PGA Tour's Sony Open in Honolulu. That gave him confidence as he hopped over to the Big Island for his tournament debut at Hualalai. The limited-field event includes winners from last season, past champions of the event, major champions and Hall of Famers.

    Kelly closed with a 6-under 66 for a three-day total of 18-under 198. Montgomerie shot 69. David Toms shot 67 and finished two shots back, and Miguel Angel Jimenez was another stroke behind after a 66.

    Bernhard Langer, defending the first of his seven 2017 titles, closed with a 70 to finish at 10 under.

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    Rahm manages frustration, two back at CareerBuilder

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 1:21 am

    Jon Rahm managed the winds and his frustrations Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge to give himself a chance to win his fourth worldwide title in the last year.

    Rahm’s 2-under-par 70 on the PGA West Stadium Course left him two shots off the lead going into the final round.

    “I wasn’t really dealing with the wind that much,” Rahm said of his frustrations. “I was dealing with not being as fluid as I was the last two days.”


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The world’s No. 3 ranked player opened with a 62 at La Quinta Country Club on Thursday and followed it up with a 67 on Friday at PGA West. He made six birdies and four bogeys on the Stadium Course on Saturday.

    “The first day, everything was outstanding,” Rahm said. “Yesterday, my driver was a little shaky but my irons shots were perfect. Today, my driver was shaky and my irons shots were shaky. On a course like this, it’s punishing, but luckily on the holes where I found the fairway I was able to make birdies.”

    Rahm is projected to move to No. 2 in the world rankings with a finish of sixth or better on Sunday.

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    Cook leads by one entering final round at CareerBuilder

    By Associated PressJanuary 21, 2018, 12:51 am

    LA QUINTA, Calif. – Austin Cook hit a hybrid into the fairway bunker on the par-4 18th on a breezy Saturday afternoon at La Quinta Country Club, then chunked a wedge and raced a chip 20 feet past the hole.

    Kip Henley, the longtime PGA Tour caddie who guided Cook to a breakthrough victory at Sea Island in November, stepped in to give the 26-year-old former Arkansas star a quick pep talk.

    ''Kip said, 'Let's finish this like we did on the first day at the Nicklaus Course.' We made a big par putt on 18 there and he said, 'Let's just do the same thing. Let's get this line right and if you get the line right it's going in.'''

    It did, giving Cook an 8-under 64 and a one-stroke lead in the CareerBuilder Challenge going into the final round on the Stadium Course at PGA West. Fellow former Razorback Andrew Landry and Martin Piller were tied for second, and Jon Rahm and Scott Piercy were a another stroke back after a tricky day in wind that didn't get close to the predicted gusts of 40 mph.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    ''I know that I wouldn't have wanted to play the Stadium today,'' Cook said. ''I think we got a great draw with the courses that we got to play on the days that we got to play them.''

    Cook played the final six holes on the front nine in 6 under with an eagle and four birdies.

    ''Starting on my fourth hole, I was able to make a birdie and kind of get the ball rolling and it never really stopped rolling,'' Cook said. ''Kip and I were doing really good at seeing the line on the greens.''

    After a bogey on 10, he birdied 11, 12 and 15 and parred the final three to get to 19-under 197.

    ''I think that tonight the nerves, the butterflies, all that will kind of be a little less,'' Cook said. ''I've been in the situation before and I was able to finish the job on Sunday. I think it would be a little different if I didn't play like I did on Sunday at Sea Island.''

    He's making his first start in the event.

    ''I came in from Hawaii on Monday, so I only had two days to prepare for three courses,'' Cook said.

    Landry, the second-round leader, had a 70 at the Stadium. Piller, the husband of LPGA tour player Gerina Piller, shot a 67 at La Quinta. Winless on the PGA Tour, they will join Cook in the final threesome.

    ''Piller's a good guy and we have played a lot together and same with Cookie,'' said Landry, the only player without a bogey after 54 holes. ''Hope the Hogs are going to come out on top.''

    Rahm had a 70 at the Stadium to reach 17 under. The third-ranked Rahm beat up the par 5s again, but had four bogeys – three on par 3s. He has played the 12 par 5s in 13 under with an eagle and 11 birdies.

    ''A little bit of a survival day,'' Rahm said.

    The wind was more of a factor on the more exposed and tighter Stadium Course.

    ''The course is firming up,'' Rahm said. ''I know if we have similar wind to today, if we shoot something under par, you'll be way up there contesting it over the last few holes.''

    Piercy had a 66 at the Stadium.

    ''I controlled my ball really well today,'' he said.

    Adam Hadwin had a 67 at La Quinta a year after shooting a third-round 59 on the course. The Canadian was 16 under along with Grayson Murray and Brandon Harkins. Murray had a 67 on the Nicklaus Course, and Harkins shot 68 at the Stadium.

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut in his first tournament of the year for the second time in his career, shooting a 74 on the Stadium to finish at 4 under – four strokes from a Sunday tee time. The 47-year-old Hall of Famer was playing for the first time since late October. He also missed the cut in the Phoenix Open in his 2009 opener.

    Charlie Reiter, the Palm Desert High School senior playing on the first sponsor exemption the event has given to an amateur, also missed the cut. He had three early straight double bogeys in a 77 on the Stadium that left him 1 over.

    John Daly had an 80 at La Quinta. He opened with a triple bogey and had six bogeys – four in a row to start his second nine - and only one birdie. The 51-year-old Daly opened with a 69 on the Nicklaus layout and had a 71 on Friday at the Stadium.

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    Phil misses CareerBuilder cut for first time in 24 years

    By Randall MellJanuary 21, 2018, 12:48 am

    Phil Mickelson missed the cut Saturday at the CareerBuilder Challenge. It’s a rare occurrence in his Hall of Fame career.

    He has played the event 15 times, going back to when it was known as the Bob Hope Classic. He has won it twice.

    How rare is his missing the cut there?

    The last time he did so, there was no such thing as a DVD, Wi-Fi, iPods, Xbox, DVR capability or YouTube.


    Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

    CareerBuilder Challenge: Articles, photos and videos


    The PGA Tour’s Jon Rahm didn’t exist, either.

    The last time Mickelson missed a cut in this event was 1994, nine months before Rahm was born.

    Mickelson struggled to a 2-over-par 74 in the heavy winds Saturday on the PGA West Stadium Course, missing the 54-hole cut by four shots. He hit just four of 14 fairways, just nine of 18 greens. He took a double bogey at the 15th after requiring two shots to escape the steep-walled bunker on the left side of the green.

    Mickelson won’t have to wait long to try to get back in the hunt. He’s scheduled to play the Farmers Insurance Open next week at Torrey Pines in La Jolla, Calif.