Chopras Win-Win Situation
The 30-year-old international man of mystery had only hours earlier came oh-so-close to achieving the improbable. Actually, considering the fact that India isnt known for being a hotbed of world class golf talent, some would argue that making it to the PGA Tour would be nearly impossible.
But there he was, playing the 72nd hole of the Nationwide Tour Championship, needing only par to secure a top-20 finish and a Nationwide Tour diploma. One wild drive, a couple of severe breaks, and two putts later, Chopra and his wife/caddie Samantha were left to ponder what could have been.
Sunday night following the Nationwide Tour Championship is one of legend. Its the most rewarding impromptu evening that Ive ever experienced. The top-20 players, tournament officials, various tournament organizers, and a host of others usually gather somewhere to celebrate what many players often describe as the most enjoyable year of their careers. Win, lose, or draw, its always a magical night.
But last year, the Chopras didnt feel much like celebrating. Daniel finished in 21st position on the money list and was the odd man out.
Now looking ahead to the overwhelming odds and the daunting prospect of Q-School, the temptation to reflect and feel sorry was looming, but Daniel put it all behind him as fast as he could. He showed up at the Q-School finals with a fresh attitude, a confident demeanor, and a focused determination that would prove insightful some six months later. Ultimately, Daniel finished sixth at finals, earned his PGA Tour card, and had fans from four continents cheering.
Born in Sweden, raised in India, moved to Australia, and now keeps residences in England, Australia, India, and Orlando, Fla., Chopra has been through a few passports. The funny thing is that he loves to play golf so much that he rarely ever sees any of his homes. Hes not the type to burn out and his wife Samantha is with him on every trip so he never gets homesick. When you think about it, how could you get homesick when you have to choose from four homes to miss? It would have to be 'homessick.' I digress.
This year on my return trip from covering the two Nationwide Tour co-sanctioned tournaments with the Australasian Tour, I ran into Daniel and Samantha in the International Terminal at LAX. Its always good to see the former Nationwide Tour players who now carry the torch for all that the Nationwide Tour has become as they forge ahead in their careers on the PGA Tour.
When I asked how things are going, I got the typical professional athletic response of optimism regarding his prospects for improving performance. Thats very common. However, when I asked how life was on the PGA Tour, both Daniel and Samantha said, We want to come home.
They intimated that its just not the same on the PGA Tour'much more business- like and far less comfortable for a rookie. Sure everybody treats you well, but the camaraderie just isnt the same.
Things were a little rocky for the Chopras during their rookie campaign, but Daniel doesnt rattle easily. Chopra didnt get into the Heritage, so he and Samantha decided to go home for a week'to the Nationwide Tour. In so doing, he won his first ever tournament on American soil, the First Tee Arkansas Classic.
Well, that was a nice tune-up for the rest of the season on the PGA Tour. Daniel then proceeded to make the next four cuts and play pretty well. However, when the next week came along where he wouldnt get into the PGA Tour event, he decided to go home again. This time it was Bank of America Colonial where he was on the outside looking in, and it was opposite the Henrico County Open on the Nationwide Tour. Off to Richmond they went. With a trophy in hand is how they once again returned.
Now Daniel is on the threshold of some unprecedented accomplishments, somewhat dubious perhaps, but impressive nonetheless. One more win on the Nationwide Tour and he could be battlefield promoted onto the tour where hes already exempt.
Roughly $30,000 in earnings and hell guarantee an exempt spot back onto next years PGA Tour, even if he finishes outside the top 125. And if he continues to play at the level he displayed last week with his record-setting 30-under-par performance, then he would most certainly climb the money list on the PGA Tour and could become the first person in history to be exempt twice on the PGA Tour.
Only time will tell where Daniels strange 2004 odyssey will ultimately lead, but it definitely appears that it will be a world away from those emotions experienced on Nov. 2, 2003.
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Simpson WDs from RSM, tweets his father is ill
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Following rounds of 67-68, Webb Simpson was in 12th place entering the weekend at the RSM Classic before he withdrew prior to Saturday’s third round.
On Saturday afternoon, Simpson tweeted that he withdrew due to an illness in his family.
“Thanks to [Davis Love III] for being such a great tournament host. I [withdrew] due to my dad being sick and living his last days,” Simpson posted on Twitter on Saturday afternoon.
Simpson’s father, Sam, caddied for his son during amateur events, and Webb Simpson started playing golf after following his father to the course on family vacations to North Carolina.
“My dad is probably the kindest man I know. He’s always been the guy who knew everyone, everyone knew him, everyone wanted to be around him,” Simpson said in a 2015 interview with David Feherty. “He taught me the game. He’s always been one of those dads who loved to be active with their kids.”
Before play began on Thursday, Luke Donald withdrew after being hospitalized with chest pain. Tests indicated the Englishman’s heart was fine and he returned home to undergo more tests.
New old putter helps Kirk (64) jump into contention
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Chris Kirk’s ball-striking has been nearly flawless this fall. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for his putting.
In four events this season, Kirk ranks 143rd in strokes gained: putting, but his fortunes have changed this week, thanks at least in part to a return to something familiar.
Kirk switched to an older style of putter similar to the one he used on the Web.com Tour in 2010 to earn his PGA Tour card.
“It's nice to be back in contention again,” said Kirk, who is alone in second place, three strokes behind front-runner Austin Cook. “It's been a little while for me. But I felt great out there today, I felt really comfortable, and so hopefully it will be the same way tomorrow.”
Kirk is 25th in strokes gained: putting this week and has converted several crucial putts, including a 30-footer for birdie at the 17th hole on his way to a third-round 64.
His putting is similar to 2013 when he won the RSM Classic, and his improved play on the greens has given the 32-year-old confidence going into Sunday’s final round.
“I'll probably be relatively comfortable in that situation, and thankfully I've been there before,” Kirk said. “It's still not easy by any means, but hopefully I'll be able to group together a bunch of good shots and see what it gives me.”
Rookie Cook (66) handling RSM like a pro
ST. SIMONS ISLAND, Ga. – Of all the impressive statistics Austin Cook has put up this week at the RSM Classic – he is first in strokes gained: tee to green, strokes gained: approach to the green and scrambling – the one number that stands out is 49.
That’s how many holes Cook went this week without a bogey or worse, a moment that prompted his caddie, Kip Henley, to joke, “The dream is over.”
That loss of momentum at the 14th hole didn’t last long, with the PGA Tour rookie making birdie at the next hole on his way to a third-round 66 and a three-stroke lead.
“Bouncing back from any bogey with a birdie is nice and helps get the number right back. Being my only bogey of the week so far, it was really nice to be able to get that back on the next hole,” said Cook, who leads Chris Kirk at 18 under par. “Going into tomorrow with a three-shot lead instead of a two-shot lead I think is crucial.”
Although this is the first time Cook has held a 54-hole lead on the Tour, in fact it’s just his fourth start as a Tour member, he has experienced Sunday pressure before. In 2015, he began the final round at the Shell Houston Open one stroke off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.
“Back then my game was good as well, but mentally I've grown a lot and matured a lot and been able to kind of just let small things on the golf course roll off my shoulder instead of getting tied up in one little small mistake,” said Cook, who closed with a 75 at the ’15 Shell Houston Open to tie for 11th.
Park collapses; leaderboard chaos at CME
Sung-Hyun Park started the day with a three-shot lead and slowly gave it all back over the course of a 3-over 75, leaving the CME Group Tour Championship and a host of season-long prizes up for grabs in Naples. Here’s where things stand through 54 holes at the LPGA finale, where Michelle Wie, Ariya Jutanugarn, Suzann Pettersen and Kim Kaufman share the lead.
Leaderboard: Kaufman (-10), Wie (-10), Jutanugarn (-10), Pettersen (-10), Stacy Lewis (-9), Karine Icher (-9), Austin Ernst (-9), Lexi Thompson (-9), Jessica Korda (-9), Pernilla Lindberg (-9)
What it means: It wasn’t the Saturday she wanted, but Park, who already wrapped up the Rookie of the Year Award, is still in position for the sweep of all sweeps. With a victory Sunday, she would claim the CME Group Tour Championship, the Race to CME Globe’s $1 million jackpot, the Rolex Player of the Year Award, and the money title, as she ascends to No. 1 in the Rolex world ranking. Meanwhile, Thompson, too, could take the $1 million and Player of the Year. As those two battle for season-long prizes, a host of other notable names – Wie, Jutanugarn, Pettersen, Korda, Lewis and Charley Hull (-8) – will fight for the Tour Championship.
Round of the day: Kaufman made four birdies on each side in a bogey-free 8 under-par 64. A lesser-known name on a stacked leaderboard, she seeks her first LPGA victory.
Best of the rest: Amy Yang will start the final round two behind after a 7-under 65. The three-time LPGA Tour winner could pick up her second title of the season after taking the Honda LPGA Thailand in February.
Biggest disappointment: On a day that featured plenty of low scores from plenty of big names, Lydia Ko dropped 11 spots down the leaderboard into a tie for 23rd with a Saturday 72. The former world No. 1 needed two birdies in her last five holes to fight her way back to even par. Winless this season, she’ll start Sunday four back, at 6 under.
Shot of the day: I.K. Kim aced the par-3 12th from 171 yards when her ball landed on the front of the green and tracked all the way to the hole.
Kim, oddly enough, signed her name to a scorecard that featured a 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7. It was all part of a 1-under 71.