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 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 and raised in India, he 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 homes sick. 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 were 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 the 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 Battlefield promote 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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