Worth the Wait Chopra Wins on Monday

By Associated PressOctober 29, 2007, 4:00 pm
  PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Daniel Chopra tapped in for par, then pumped his right fist into the air.
 
Finally, victory was his.
 
Chopra re-claimed the outright lead with a birdie at the par-5 16th hole Monday morning and held on to win the oft-delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic, edging Fredrik Jacobsen and Shigeki Maruyama by one shot for his first PGA TOUR triumph.
 
'It's amazing,' Chopra said. 'It's something that I've dreamed about for a long time.'
 
Chopra finished at 19 under, becoming the 12th first-time winner on tour this season.
 
The win came in Chopra's 133rd career start, and the $810,000 winner's check pushed his career earnings to just shy of $5 million. He saw a four-shot lead over his nearest pursuers evaporate as darkness fell on Tesoro Club Sunday night, then returned in the morning and coolly finished off the long-awaited win.
 
'Coming from India, growing up there, having to fly overseas just to buy golf balls because you couldn't buy them in India at the time, to think I could come from there to being a winner on the PGA TOUR, it's pretty special,' said the Swedish-born Chopra, who moved to India when he was 7 and was raised by his grandparents.
 
Maruyama left with one pretty good consolation prize -- a card for next season.
 
His tie for second earned him $396,000, vaulting him from 137th to 103rd on the money list with just one tournament remaining, meaning he's a cinch to finish among the top 125 and have full playing privileges next season. Not bad, considering he was at No. 208 on the list earlier this year.
 
'This year was really hard, the most difficult year in eight years for myself,' said Maruyama, who had been in the top 80 on the money list in each of his first seven years on tour. 'I'm really happy.'
 
He won't have to worry about playing next week's Children's Miracle Network Classic at the Disney courses near Orlando, either.
 
'Bye, bye, Disney,' Maruyama said in perfect English.
 
Jacobsen's finish was his best in 96 starts on TOUR.
 
Dicky Pride (64) was alone in fourth at 16 under, earning $216,000 -- the second-biggest check of his career, $9,000 shy of what he earned for winning the 1994 St. Jude Classic.
 
He was at the course Monday morning, just in case there was a playoff.
 
'Couldn't take the chance,' Pride said. 'I didn't want my wife to drive home alone, but I had to stay.'
 
Chopra, Maruyama and Jacobsen all entered the morning 18 under, with Chopra having three holes left to play and the others with two. That figured to give Chopra a big edge, since his first hole of Monday was the par-5 16th, the easiest on the course this week and one he'd already made birdie on three times.
 
Make it four.
 
Chopra's 10-footer -- after missing the fairway off the tee -- gave him a one-shot lead, after Maruyama and Jacobsen both missed the green and scrambled for par at the par-3 17th.
 
'Well, 17 is not an easy hole, especially not starting on it,' Jacobsen said. 'You warm up, you do everything and then you're riding a car out to the tee and playing for a tournament when you're trying to finish off a round as well. ... You feel the pulse going a bit.'
 
Chopra didn't find 17 easy, either. He hit the green, albeit 55 feet from the hole, and made a 4-footer to save par and maintain the lead. And at the 18th, needing par to win, his drive found a bunker, but his second shot stopped 25 feet from the hole to set up the title-clinching two-putt.
 
In a week filled with weather delays, wet conditions and six-hour rounds, he simply survived. Chopra had been close before, with 13 previous top-10 finishes, and finally got it done.
 
'If you keep putting yourself, sooner or later you break through,' Jacobsen said. 'It's got to happen and this time he did very well.'
 
Ken Duke (70), Charlie Wi (71), Sean O'Hair (74) and Cameron Beckman (72) finished tied for fifth at 13 under. That was huge for Beckman, who jumped 10 spots to 118th on the money list after winning nearly $160,000 at the Ginn and greatly enhancing his odds of staying within that top-125 plateau.
 
Bob Estes and Tommy Armour III, who shared the lead after the first two rounds, struggled on the weekend. Estes shot a final-round 77 and finished tied for 12th at 11 under, while Armour shot 78-72 and finished tied for 16th.
 
Briny Baird, who lives just a few miles from Tesoro Club and was tied for second entering the final round, shot 78 and finished nine shots back.
 
Notes:
Only six players needed to finish their rounds Monday morning. ... It was only the second tournament this year to allow players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway for all four rounds. Pebble Beach was the other. ... Chopra's 19 under score was his second-best in relation to par on the PGA TOUR. He was 21 under at the Frys.com Open last year.
 
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - Ginn sur Mer Classic at Tesoro
  • Full Coverage - Ginn sur Mer Classic at Tesoro
  • Getty Images

    Caddies drop lawsuit; Tour increases healthcare stipend

    By Rex HoggardOctober 18, 2018, 3:33 pm

    After nearly four years of litigation, a group of PGA Tour caddies have dropped their lawsuit against the circuit.

    The lawsuit, which was filed in California in early 2015, centered on the bibs caddies wear during tournaments and ongoing attempts by the caddies to improve their healthcare and retirement options.

    The caddies lost their class-action lawsuit in U.S. District Court and an appeal this year.

    Separately, the Association of Professional Tour Caddies, which was not involved in the lawsuit but represents the caddies to the Tour, began negotiating with the circuit last year.

    “I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the APTC.

    In January 2017, Jay Monahan took over as commissioner of the Tour and began working with the APTC to find a solution to the healthcare issue. Sajtinac said the Tour has agreed to increase the stipend it gives caddies for healthcare beginning next year.

    “It took a year and a half, but it turned out to be a good result,” Sajtinac said. “Our goal is to close that window for the guys because healthcare is such a massive chunk of our income.”

    The Tour did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the agreement or the end to the lawsuit.

    Caddies have received a stipend from the Tour for healthcare for some time, and although Sajtinac wouldn’t give the exact increase, he said it was over 300 percent. Along with the APTC’s ability to now negotiate healthcare plans as a group, the new stipend should dramatically reduce healthcare costs for caddies.

    “It’s been really good,” said Sajtinac, who did add that there are currently no talks with the Tour to created a retirement program for caddies. “Everybody is really excited about this.”

    Getty Images

    PGA Tour Latinoamerica moving season finale to Doral

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 2:36 pm

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica announced Wednesday that it will play its season finale, the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship, at Trump National Doral from Nov. 29-Dec. 2.

    The limited-field event will feature the top 60 players on the circuit's money list competing on Doral's Golden Palm Course.

    “We are very happy that we will continue playing the Latinoamérica Tour Championship-Shell Championship in South Florida, and Doral is a tremendous community that we know will open its arms to our players and this tournament,” PGA Tour Latinoamérica president Jack Warfield said in a statement.

    The PGA Tour ended its more than 50-year relationship with Doral and the resort's Blue Monster course back in 2016, when Cadillac's title sponsorship of the World Golf Championship lapsed as then-candidate Donald Trump was mounting his bid for the presidency.

    “We continue to stand by our earlier statement, and the statement of other golf organizations, that Mr. Trump's comments are inconsistent with our strong commitment to an inclusive and welcoming environment in the game of golf,” then-PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said in December 2015, referring to Trump's campaign rhetoric concerning Mexicans and Muslims.

    The event was moved to Mexico City in 2017 and renamed the WGC-Mexico Championship.

    The Latinoamérica Tour Championship was staged the last two years at Melreese Country Club in Miami, where David Beckham is currently attempting to build a stadium for his Major League Soccer expansion club, Inter Miami.

    PGA Tour Latinoamérica's release states that the move to Doral "keeps the event in this part of the Sunshine State and allows the tournament to maintain its ties to The First Tee of Miami as a charitable recipient and sponsor." Melreese, the city's only public golf course, is home to the First Tee of Miami, which naturally opposes Beckham's efforts to close the facility and repurpose the land.

    A November referendum will ask voters to decide if the city should negotiate a no-bid lease with Beckham's ownership group, which seeks to create a $1 billion dollar complex comprising of the proposed stadium, youth soccer fields, a park, commercial and retail space, and a hotel.

    Im wins Web.com Player and Rookie of the Year awards

    By Nick MentaOctober 18, 2018, 1:22 pm

    Sungjae Im on Thursday was named the Web.com Tour's 2018 Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year.

    Im won twice on the Web.com this year, taking the season opener in January, The Bahamas Great Exuma Classic, and the season finale in August, the WinCo Foods Portland Open, to become the first player in history lead the circuit's money list wire-to-wire.

    Im is the first Korean-born player to win the Web's POY award and, at 20 years old, its youngest recipient.

    In a player vote, Im bested Anders Albertson, Sam Burns, Kramer Hickok and Martin Trainer, 2018's only other two-time winner, for POY honors, and Burns, Hickock, Trainer and Cameron Champ for ROY honors.

    “My first year on the Web.com Tour was an incredibly happy time for me,” Im said, “and it’s pretty surreal that I was able to win the first and last tournament of the season. I honestly thought I would spend about two to three years on the Web.com Tour before making it to the PGA Tour, so I’m happy to have achieved my goal so soon. I’m grateful to have earned the Player of the Year honors and I hope to finish the remainder of the PGA Tour season on a good note.”

    In his first PGA Tour start, Im tied for fourth at the Safeway Open, earning $241,280, a little less than half of the $534,326 he amassed in 25 starts as the Web's regular-season money winner.

    Playing this week's CJ Cup in his native South Korea, Im opened with a 1-over 73 Thursday.

    Getty Images

    Former DJ advisor found guilty in embezzlement case

    By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 18, 2018, 12:38 pm

    A federal jury has found Nathan Hardwick, a former advisor to Dustin Johnson, guilty of embezzling $26 million in funds from his now-bankrupt real estate closing firm, Morris Hardwick Schneider.

    Per Golf.com, citing Law.com, a 12-person jury convicted Hardwick of "one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, 21 counts of wire fraud and one count of making false statements to federally insured banks."

    As for where exactly the money went, The Sun News of Myrtle Beach, once again citing Law.com, has the details:

    "The alleged spending included $18.47 million on gambling, private jet travel and women from 2011 through August 2014. The prosecution submitted two binders of documentation as evidence that Hardwick spent $4.39 million on “female social companions,” including one testifying witness who claimed to have met him through SugarDaddy.com."

    "Other alleged expenditures described in testimony include more than $7 million at casinos, more than $3 million with a bookie, $680,000 for a luxury condo at The St. Regis Atlanta, $273,000 on a diamond ring, $186,000 on a deposit for a party on a private island, and $635,000 on a trip to the 2014 British Open for golfing buddies that included a customized jet and round at St. Andrews."

    Johnson in 2014 sued Morris Hardwick Schneider over a $3 million loan he believed to be an investment. Instead, Johnson argued, the money was going to make up for shortages created by Hardwick's embezzlement. Johnson later amended his suit to argue that Hardwick, who previously served on the board of the Dustin Johnson Foundation, was being used as a "pawn" by the firm's other partners. 

    That suit was settled in 2016 for $2 million.