Kapalua (Hawaii) : Daniel Chopra, who became the seventh consecutive foreign-born winner of the Mercedes-Benz Golf Championship Sunday, will go for another record when he tees up at the Sony Open Thursday. He will try to become only the second player after Ernie Els to successfully capture titles at the Mercedes-Benz Championship and the Sony Open in the same year to open the PGA tour season in Hawaii.
Chopra, who hit a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole to beat Steve Stricker in a play-off in growing darkness at the Plantation Course here, earned $1.1 million in addition to a Mercedes Benz. It also earned him a spot in this year’s Masters.
“I get to go to Augusta, my lifelong dream,” he said after the win.
Chopra, born in Stockholm to an Indian father and a Swedish mother, learnt his game at the Delhi Golf Club. Turning pro very early in his teens, Chopra has played on Indian, Asian, Australian and European Tours before finding his feet in US PGA.
Chopra was understandably ecstatic after winning his second title in three starts – he won the Ginn Sur Classic in the closing stages of the 2007 season.
Excerpts of the interview Chopra gave to the media after his win:
Q: Daniel Chopra, congratulations on win No. 2 in three starts, winner of the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship. You got an early lead right out of the gate. Just a couple of general comments?
Daniel Chopra: Yeah, it was an unbelievable day, really. I felt very comfortable all week. I guess the win made me more comfortable. I felt like I did belong now and I was a winner. There’s not a golf course out there that suits me more. I just loved it from the moment I saw it, and I’ve obviously been familiar with it from TV, but when I played it the first time, I thought, wow, I love it. And of course I managed to take advantage of it. I felt like I knew how to play the holes, and I got it done.
Q. Any particular reason for wearing all white?
Chopra: I wore all black yesterday (third day), so I thought I’d balance it out, yin and yang.
Q. Did you reach a point where you figured Steve (Stricker) would make the putt on 9, the way the blade of grass kept catching the ball at the edge of the cup, seemingly?
Chopra: I was nearly positive it was going to make it. Those putts, the first one in the playoff, I thought I hit a beauty. I hit the ball to the left. We were positive mine was going to go that way, too. And it just hung up on that high side. And then the one on the first hole, which I guess was the second playoff hole, I don’t know how that hung on the lip. And then when the eagle putt hung on the lip, which I was positive, 100 percent, it has to go, especially when the whole green goes that way, the grain goes that way, the sun is that way, the wind is that way, and then it toppled – I think it almost looked like it backed up. Half the ball was hanging over the hole.
Q. What kind of ball mark do you use?
Chopra: I use a ball mark that I bought at the Dunhill Links Championship in Japan. I’ve used it for a few years now. It’s the ball mark I normally use.
Q. Is there a significance to that ball mark, or do you just like it?
Chopra: It has a little Japanese saying on it.
Q. Which is?
Chopra: It’s hard to describe, but it’s good fortune or the Japanese version of fortune favours the brave.
Q. There was a lot of talk obviously in the Fall Series (when Chopra won the Ginn Sur Classic) about the depth and strength and quality of the field. Does this win feel any more significant?
Chopra: You know, I guess there might have been a few better players in the field this week, and it’s deemed a more prestigious event. I think the meaning for it to me, I won’t really know until maybe the next few days. But every win is extremely special. I’m just as proud of this win as I was of that one. I don’t think until maybe you win a major you can really rate one above the other. I felt like I worked just as hard in this one, and having lost a playoff in Australia just a few weeks ago, I think it went four holes, as well, it was special to at least get my first-ever playoff win.
Q. Any coincidence that Mitch (Chopra’s caddie) had a Masters hat on today?
Chopra: That’s funny, what a great little omen that must have been. I actually did notice that he had it on early in the week, but didn’t want to say anything. Then today I noticed it on the back nine he had it on. Obviously he had it on all day, but I was thinking, maybe that’s just a little something. I don’t know if he thought about that consciously, but maybe that was his little key. That’s the kind of guy Mitch is. He likes that stuff, gives me little side messages.
Q. Were you thinking about darkness as the playoff went on?
Chopra: I was thinking, well, my last win came on a Monday finish, and that was just a few holes I had to play. I figured, well, if we have to come back tomorrow in the morning, maybe I can draw on that experience. It worked out fine for me last time. That was also a par 73 golf course.
Q. How does the win change your expectations for the rest of the year?
Chopra: Well, you know, I don’t know. We’ll have to see. Like I said, I got a golf course that was just right up my alley. Every other golf course out on Tour now I’ll have to work a little bit harder. I’m a good putter, and on weeks when I knock it close and start making some of those and give myself opportunities are the weeks I’ll perform well. I’m sure I’ll contend again and hopefully I’ll win a few more.