Daniel Chopra might have fulfilled his lifelong dream of playing in the Masters after his Mercedes–Benz Championship victory Jan. 6, but he shouldn’t get his hopes up on realizing his Ryder Cup dream this year.
Chopra is living in the nosebleed regions of world golf right now, but a September trip to Valhalla in Louisville, Ky., as a member of the European Ryder Cup team might be beyond him.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1.) His world ranking isn’t high enough. Chopra is currently 61st on the Official World Golf Ranking, 17th on the European pecking order. He is second on the Ryder Cup World Points List, but unless he plays brilliantly in the WGC events and major championships, players such as Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington, Henrik Stenson, Justin Rose, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey are likely to pass him. Only five players from that list make the team, and a betting man wouldn’t pick Chopra above those horses.
2.) He doesn’t play enough in Europe. Chopra is an affiliate member of the European Tour right now. Of course, he will become a full member if he has a chance at the Ryder Cup. Problem is, he hasn’t played and won’t play enough in Europe – Why would he? – to take one of the five spots on the team from the Ryder Cup European points list.
3.) He has peaked too early. Winning the first week of the year may grant you nearly three years of exempt status, but unless he puts in a few more good performances, Chopra isn’t likely to cut much ice with Nick Faldo and his two captain’s picks.
4.) If he struggled to see off Steve Stricker… No offense to Stricker, but he’s hardly the caliber of Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson or Jim Furyk. Four extra holes to get the better of Stricker isn’t going to have those three quaking in their shoes – not to mention any other member of the U.S. team.
5.) Daniel who? Chopra didn’t exactly light up the European Tour when he played his home circuit. He moved mostly in circles lower down the European food chain than the ones in which most of his Ryder Cup teammates will have traveled. He needed seven trips to the Euro Tour Q-School to get his card and only succeeded once, in 1995. He managed a 36th-place money position in 1996, but three years later lost his card.
6.) History has not been kind to Swedish players. Ask Robert Karlsson (1999), Fredrik Jacobson (2004), Johan Edfors and Carl Pettersson (2006). All had valid cases for wild cards but were passed over. Karlsson lost out when Mark James picked Andrew Coltart, even though Karlsson finished 11th on the points list and Coltart 12th. Jacobson won three times in 2003 and played well on the PGA Tour in 2004, but Luke Donald and Colin Montgomerie got the call. Pettersson and Edfors saw Lee Westwood and Darren Clarke get wild-card selections in 2006 even though Pettersson played brilliantly on the PGA Tour and Edfors won three times in Europe.
7.) Better players have missed out. Aside from the above Swedes, you have the case of Bernhard Langer in 1999. James left the German off the team in favor of Jesper Parnevik and Coltart. To this day, James’ decision to pick Coltart instead of the experienced German is baffling.
8.) He’s too smart. Chopra speaks three languages: Swedish, English and Hindi. That makes him head-and-shoulders smarter than every other player on the team, particularly the Great Britain & Ireland guys. The Continental Europeans can speak two languages, their own tongue and English. As for the Brits and Irish, most can just about order a beer in another language and nothing more, despite decades of GB&I players competing in Europe.
9.) Parochialism. There have been muted cries of parochialism from Continental Europeans in the past over the captains’ picks. James’ decision to choose Coltart was the most obvious, and Ian Woosnam’s choice of Clarke and Westwood had echoes of that for the Continentals. Ask some Continental Europeans who Faldo would pick faced with a choice between Chopra and a British or Irish player, and they’ll tell you the Englishman will go for one of his own.
10.) Wrong hairstyle. Peroxide blond hair was the fashion choice for the majority of Europeans at Oakland Hills during their victory in 2004. Newsflash: It’s only 2008. We won’t see that trend come back for a while.