Five Things: Chopra wins in San Francisco
The Nationwide Tour has played just four events this year and already three rounds have been canceled by weather. The most recent cancellation erased the final round of last week’s Fresh Express Classic (Nationwide Tour regulations forbid Monday finishes). Daniel Chopra, who shot a third-round 61 to take the 54-hole lead, was declared the champion. One year after the Nationwide Tour graduated the youngest class in its history, five of the top six on the money list, Chopra included, are former PGA Tour members aged 35 years or older.
1.) In a fog: Chopra didn’t get his 59, but he got his first Nationwide Tour victory since 2004. Chopra needed one birdie over his final two holes Saturday at TPC Stonbrae to break 60. He bogeyed 18 to shoot 61, but finished the third round one shot ahead of Russell Knox and Luke List. Chopra, 37, was declared the winner when the final round was canceled by fog.
Chopra won his two PGA Tour titles – the 2007 Ginn sur Mer Classic and 2008 Hyundai Tournament of Champions – in a three-event span, but has struggled in recent years. He’s had just two top-10s on the PGA Tour since, and finished 176th on the PGA Tour money list last year.
Chopra started working with instructor Mitchell Spearman late last year in an attempt to resurrect his game.
2.) Hard Knox: Russell Knox’s cross-country venture for the Fresh Express Classic was worth the airfare. Knox tied 2004 U.S. Amateur runner-up Luke List for second, and earned his first Nationwide Tour card in the process.
Knox’s runner-up finish was worth $52,800. He earned tour status because his earnings this year surpassed the total of the No. 100 finisher on last year’s money list.
Knox, a Scot who lives in Jacksonville Beach, Fla., Monday qualified for the Fresh Express Classic. He won on both the Hooters and eGolf tours last year, but decided this year to try more Nationwide Tour qualifiers. He needed a birdie-eagle finish in last week’s qualifier just to get into this event.
“I know I’m good enough to win. I feel I’m good enough to be on this tour. I just haven’t done it at Q-school to make it here,” said Knox, who finished T-7 at last year’s Knoxville Open. “I was talking to some people and their advice to me was to try more Monday qualifiers out here and try to make it this way.”
Knox was tied for the lead when play was called Sunday, seven holes into the final round. Here’s how the leaderboard looked when play was suspended for the day:
1.) Daniel Chopra, even today, -12 thru 7
1.) Russell Knox, -1 today, -12 thru 7
3.) Garrett Sapp, -4 today, -10 thru 11
3.) Luke List, +1 today, -10 thru 7
5.) Mathew Goggin, -1 today, -9 thru 8
5.) Erik Compton, -1 today, -9 thru 8
5.) Marco Dawson, -1 today, -9 thru 8
3.) New No. 1: Mathew Goggin regained the top spot on the Nationwide Tour money list after a fourth-place finish at TPC Stonebrae. Goggin, a former top-50 player in the world, is back on the Nationwide Tour after finishing 159th on last year’s PGA Tour money list. He started this season with a victory at the Panama Claro Championship. Goggin is playing without a sponsor this year, wearing a hat with his personal logo, which depicts a Tasmanian tiger since Goggin is from Tasmania.
4.) Just peachy: The Nationwide Tour returns to action next week for the South Georgia Classic. It’ll be the second consecutive event with a star athlete in the field. Former Atlanta Braves pitcher John Smoltz is making his Nationwide Tour debut. Jerry Rice played last week’s Fresh Express Classic for the second consecutive year. He shot 163, four shots worse than last year.
Also in the field in Georgia is Jason Kokrak, who will be looking to go from the mini-tours to the Nationwide Tour with one good week. Knox and Kokrak were among the best players without Nationwide or PGA tour status last year. Kokrak, medalist at the 2007 U.S. Amateur, won the eGolf Professional Tour money list last year.
He finished 13th in last year’s South Georgia Classic, and earned a return trip with a victory at last week’s eGolf event.
5.) Notables: List’s runner-up finish moved him to No. 8 on the money list. The fourth-year pro out of Vanderbilt is seeking his first PGA Tour card.
Erik Compton shot a third-round 64 to finish fourth, his second top-5 finish in three Nationwide Tour events this year. Compton, 31, is No. 10 on the money list.
Monday qualifier Garrett Sapp finished ninth to earn a berth in the South Georgia Classic.