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Chopra Birdies Way to Arkansas Win

04 First Tee Arkansas ClassicHOT SPRINGS VILLAGE, Ark. -- Daniel Chopra birdied his final three holes Sunday to shoot a 6-under 66 and win the First Tee Arkansas Classic. He finished at 13-under-par 275 and bested John Elliott by a stroke at Diamante Golf Club.
The win was Chopra's first on the Nationwide Tour and is not a member of the tour. He played here the last two years but made it to the PGA Tour in 2004. Chopra's eligibility ranking did not get him into the field at the Heritage.
'I felt at home this week. It was like a homecoming,' said Chopra, who pocketed $90,000 for the victory. 'I almost felt like a farm boy who had gone on to the big city. This worked out nicely for me.'
Chopra birdied four holes in a five-hole span and suddenly found himself tied for the lead by the 10th green. Elliott birdied his final two holes to get into the clubhouse at 12 under par, which was two shots better than Chopra.
Chopra made a 25-footer for par at the 15th to stay in the hunt, then birdied 16. He drained an 18-footer for birdie at the 17th then played the par-5 closing hole, needing birdie for the title.
His second at 18 landed on the back edge of the green. Chopra elected to putt his eagle try through a valley on the green and lagged it to tap-in range. He kicked in the birdie try for his first championship on the Nationwide Tour.
'The last thing on my mind was that I'd birdie the last three holes to win,' said Chopra. 'I hadn't hit a single putt from off the green all week and it was such a tough shot, being uphill and into the grain. I told myself to just trust it. It was amazing, the putts I made those last five holes.'
Chopra returns to the PGA Tour next week in Houston but acknowledged his roots on the Nationwide Tour.
'This tour changed my career around and gave me a great opportunity to play,' he said. 'I will always come back if I have a chance. It's nice to know that I have a place to play next year, regardless of what happens the rest of this year. In a way, it takes the pressure off me now and maybe I can just free-wheel it. I've got some job security now.'
For Elliott, it was another runner-up finish at this event. He took second in 2001 and thought his final-round 66 would be enough to visit the winner's circle.
'I thought if I shot 66 today I'd have a chance,' said Elliott. 'I thought if I could get to 12 under it would get me into a playoff. Today was a good day but I have to admit I'm a little disappointed.'
Overnight leader James Driscoll only managed an even-par 72 on Sunday to share third place with Ryuji Imada and Justin Bolli, who each posted rounds of 2-under 70. The trio came in at 10-under-par 278.
Chris Tidland shot a 70 in the final round and took sixth place at minus-9. Robert Garrigus fired a 5-under 67 and finished seventh at 8-under-par 280.
Related Links:
  • Leaderboard - First Tee Arkansas Classic
  • Full Coverage - First Tee Arkansas Classic