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Chopra goes distance in playoff victory

Daniel Chopra survived a wild finish and playoff to beat Steve Stricker in the PGA opener. Daniel Chopra survived a wild finish and playoff to beat Steve Stricker in the PGA opener. (Eric Risberg/Associated Press)
Email|Print| Text size + By Doug Ferguson
Associated Press / January 7, 2008

KAPALUA, Hawaii - All those times watching the Mercedes-Benz Championship on television and playing the Plantation Course at Kapalua on a video game could never have prepared Daniel Chopra for his wild playoff victory yesterday.

He twice blew chances to win the tournament on the 18th hole.

He got out of one jam when his chip settled into a sprinkler cup, and he might have avoided another when Steve Stricker's long putt on the first playoff hole was slowed by hitting Chopra's ball mark. Two birdie putts in the playoff were held up by a blade of grass.

A long, nail-biting start to the PGA Tour finally ended as the sun dipped below the Pacific's horizon when Chopra two-putted for birdie on the par-5 ninth to beat Stricker in four extra holes.

Chopra closed with a 7-under 66 and walked off with a number of prizes. The Swede earned $1.1 million and a Mercedes-Benz sports car. And his victory earned him his first trip to the Masters.

"I get to go to Augusta, my lifelong dream," Chopra said.

Stricker also had a birdie putt that grazed the lip on the third playoff hole, but on the next hole, he pulled his fairway metal on his approach to the par-5 ninth, chipped 15 feet by the cup and missed the putt that would have sent them to the 18th for a third time. But it was a valiant comeback for Stricker, who birdied three of his last four holes to close with a 64 and force a playoff.

"Building blocks," Stricker said as his voice started to choke.

On the first extra hole on the par-5 18th, Stricker putted from 120 feet away just off the green when his ball hit Chopra's large ball mark and took a big hop, losing so much speed that it stopped nearly 10 feet short of the hole. He missed the birdie putt.

Chopra's 25-foot birdie on No. 1, the second playoff hole, looked so good that Chopra raised his putter and began to celebrate, then dropped to his knees and let the putter fall from his hands when the ball stopped on the edge of the cup. The second hole was Stricker's turn to win, and his 15-foot putt just turned away.

Chopra essentially won the tournament with a fairway metal to about 25 feet for eagle, and when that putt again was held up by a blade of Bermuda grass, he must have figured it was not meant for him to win.

"It felt like there was a goalie in the hole," Chopra said.

But it didn't matter when Stricker's chip stayed left of the cup all the way.

Stephen Ames closed with a 66 to finish one shot out of the playoff. Mike Weir rallied too late and shot 70 to finish two shots behind.

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