Chopra Finding his Comfort Zone

By Associated PressJanuary 6, 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.'
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Mercedes-Benz Championship
  • GOLF CHANNEL Airtimes
     
    Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • Getty Images

    Lincicome grouped with two rookies in Barbasol

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 17, 2018, 9:54 pm

    Brittany Lincicome will tee it up with a pair of rookies when she makes her first start in a PGA Tour event Thursday at the Barbasol Championship at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky.

    Lincicome, an eight-time LPGA winner, is scheduled to go off the 10th tee at 9:59 a.m. ET in the first round with Sam Ryder, 28, and Conrad Shindler, 29. They’re off the first tee Friday at 2:59 p.m. ET

    Lincicome will become just the sixth woman to play in a PGA Tour event, joining Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Michelle Wie.

    “The first three or four holes, I’ll be a nervous wreck, for sure,” Linicome said.

     

     

    Getty Images

    Lincicome thrilled by reception from male pros

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 8:31 pm

    Brittany Lincicome wondered how PGA Tour pros would greet her when she arrived to play the Barbasol Championship this week.

    She wondered if there would be resentment.

    She also wondered how fans at Keene Trace Golf Club in Nicholasville, Ky., would receive her, and if a social media mob would take up pitchforks.

    “I can’t stop smiling,” Lincicome said Tuesday after her first practice round upon arriving. “Everyone has been coming up to me and wishing me luck. That means a lot.”

    PGA Tour pro Martin Piller, husband of LPGA pro Gerina Piller, welcomed her immediately.

    Other pros sought her out on the practice putting green.

    She said she was also welcomed joining pros at a table in player dining.

    Fans have been stopping her for autographs.

    “It has been an awesome reception,” said Dewald Gouws, her husband, a former long-drive competitor. “I think it’s put her much more at ease, seeing the reception she is getting. There’s a lot of mutual respect.”

    Lincicome, 32, wasn’t sure if she would be playing a practice round alone Tuesday morning, but when she made her way to the first tee, Domenico Geminiani was there, just about to go off.

    He waved Lincicome over.

    “He said, `Hey, Brittany, do you want to join me?’” Gouws said. “Come to find out, Dom’s a pretty cool guy.”

    Geminiani made it into the field as a Monday qualifier.

    “The two of us were both trying to figure things out together,” Lincicome said.

    Keene Trace will play to 7,328 yards on the scorecard. That’s more than 800 yards longer than Highland Meadows, where Lincicome finished second at the LPGA’s Marathon Classic last weekend. Keene Trace was playing even longer than its listed yardage Tuesday, with recent rains softening it.

    Nicknamed “Bam Bam,” Lincicome is one of the longest hitters in the women’s game. Her 269.5 yard average drive is 10th in the LPGA ranks. It would likely be dead last on the PGA Tour, where Brian Stuard (278.2) is the last player on the stats list at No. 201.

    “I think if I keep it in the fairway, I’ll be all right,” Lincicome said.

    Lincicome is an eight-time LPGA winner, with two major championships among those titles. She is just the sixth woman to compete in a PGA Tour event, the first in a decade, since Michelle Wie played the Reno-Tahoe Open, the last of her eight starts against the men.

    Lincicome will join Babe Zaharias, Shirley Spork, Annika Sorenstam, Suzy Whaley and Wie in the elite ranks.

    Zaharias, by the way, is the only woman to make a 36-hole cut in PGA Tour history, making it at the 1945 L.A. Open before missing a 54-hole cut on the weekend.

    What are Lincicome’s expectations?

    She would love to make the cut, but . . .

    “Just going to roll with it and see what happens,” she said. “This is once in a lifetime, probably a one-and-done opportunity. I’m just going to enjoy it.”

    Lincicome grew up playing for the boys’ golf team at Seminole High on the west coast of Florida. She won a couple city championships.

    “I always thought it would be cool to compete against the guys on the PGA Tour,” Lincicome said. “I tend to play more with the guys than women at home. I never would have gone out and told my agent, `Let’s go try to play in a PGA Tour event,’ but when Tom Murray called with this opportunity, I was really blown away and excited by it. I never in a million years thought I would have this opportunity.”

    Tom Murray, the president of Perio, the parent company of Barbasol and Pure Silk, invited Lincicome to accept one of the tournament’s sponsor exemptions. Lincicome represents Pure Silk.

    Lincicome said her desire to play a PGA Tour event is all about satisfying her curiosity, wanting to know how she would stack up at this level. She also wants to see if the experience can help take her to the next level in the women’s game.

    As a girl growing up, she played Little League with the boys, instead of softball with the girls. She said playing the boys in golf at Seminole High helped her get where she is today.

    “The guys were better, and it pushed me to want to be better,” Lincicome said. “I think playing with the guys [on the PGA Tour], I will learn something to take to LPGA events, and it will help my game, for sure.”

    Lincicome has been pleased that her fellow LPGA pros are so supportive. LPGA winner Kris Tamulis is flying into Kentucky as moral support. Other LPGA pros may also be coming in to support her.

    The warm fan reception Lincicome is already getting at Keene Trace matters, too.

    “She’s already picked up some new fans this week, and hopefully she will pick up some more,” Gouws said. “I don’t think she’s putting too much expectation on herself. I think she really does just want to have fun.”

    Getty Images

    Stunner: Inbee Park steps aside for Int. Crown

    By Randall MellJuly 17, 2018, 4:00 pm

    There was a big surprise this week when the LPGA announced the finalized lineups for the UL International Crown.

    Rolex world No. 1 Inbee Park won’t be teeing it up for the host South Koreans Oct. 4-7 in Incheon.

    She has withdrawn, saying she wanted another Korean to be able to experience the thrill of representing her country.

    It’s a stunner given the importance the LPGA has placed on taking the UL International Crown to South Korea and its golf-crazy allegiance to the women’s game in the Crown’s first staging outside the United States.

    Two-time major champion In Gee Chun will replace Park.

    "It was my pleasure and honor to participate in the first UL International Crown in 2014 and at the 2016 Olympics, and I cannot describe in one word how amazing the atmosphere was to compete as a representative of my country,” Park said. “There are so many gifted and talented players in Korea, and I thought it would be great if one of the other players was given the chance to experience the 2018 UL International Crown.”

    Chun, another immensely popular player in South Korea, was the third alternate, so to speak, with the world rankings used to field teams. Hye Jin Choi and Jin Young Ko were higher ranked than Chun but passed because of commitments made to competing in a Korean LPGA major that week. The other South Koreans who previously qualified are So Yeon Ryu, Sung Hyun Park and I.K. Kim.

    Getty Images

    Na: I can admit, 'I went through the yips'

    By Rex HoggardJuly 17, 2018, 3:35 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following his victory two weeks ago at A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, Kevin Na said his second triumph on the PGA Tour was the most rewarding of his career.

    Although he declined to go into details as to why the victory was so gratifying at The Greenbrier, as he completed his practice round on Tuesday at the Open Championship, Na shed some light on how difficult the last few years have been.

    “I went through the yips. The whole world saw that. I told people, 'I can’t take the club back,'” Na said on Tuesday at Carnoustie. “People talked about it, 'He’s a slow player. Look at his routine.' I was admitting to the yips. I didn’t use the word ‘yip’ at the time. Nobody wants to use that word, but I’m over it now so I can use it. The whole world saw it.”


    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship


    Na, who made headlines for his struggles to begin his backswing when he found himself in the lead at the 2012 Players Championship, said he asked other players who had gone through similar bouts with the game’s most dreaded ailment how they were able to get through it.

    “It took time,” he said. “I forced myself a lot. I tried breathing. I tried a trigger. Some guys will have a forward press or the kick of the right knee. That was hard and the crap I got for it was not easy.”

    The payoff, however, has steadily arrived this season. Na said he’d been confident with his game this season following a runner-up showing at the Genesis Open and a fourth-place finish at the Fort Worth Invitational, and he felt he was close to a breakthrough. But being able to finish a tournament like he did at The Greenbrier, where he won by five strokes, was particularly rewarding.

    “All good now,” he smiled. “I knew I was good enough to win again, but until you do it sometimes you question yourself. It’s just the honest truth.”