Chopra fuels dreams of an Indian touch at the Ryder Cup Golf

June 29th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By V. Krishnaswamy
A fair number of Indian sports fans these days are tuned to Wimbledon, Euro 2008 or the Asia Cup cricket, but there is also a band of fans, who stay up late in the night to catch up on the Indian connection on the US PGA Golf Tour and one who could give us that unimaginable dream of seeing an Indian touch in Ryder Cup golf. The Ryder Cup is the world’s premier team competition in golf and one which features a team from United States clashing with a team from combined Europe. It is one of the world’s most awaited sporting events which takes place every two years. It is also an event, where no Indian golf fan has ever dreamt of seeing an Indian - even if only in part - at the tournament.

Well, that may be about to change, if Daniel Chopra can win at the Buick Open and come closer to finding a place in the 12-man European team that will take on US this September. Chopra gets his chance by virtue of being Swedish, his mother’s nationality, which he chose early in his career.

Chopra, born in Stockholm - and not in India as many Indian writers often presume - to an Indian father and a Swedish mother, grew up with his Indian grandparents and honed his early golfing skills at the bushy and sometimes treacherous Delhi Golf Club. Maybe, it were those early lessons of making his way out of the trees and bushes that helped him fine tune the skills which saw him execute some amazing shots out of trouble last three days at the Buick Open.

He found just seven of the 14 fairways in each of his first two rounds and then a mere three of the 14 in third which put him 65th in the list. But when it came to putts per round, he was tops as also in putts per greens in regulation, all indicating sublime golf from the roughs - since he missed most fairways - and some amazing scrambling.

Delhi Golf Club’s members, and his friends like Jeev Milkha Singh, Arjun Atwal and Shiv Kapur, have always spoken of Chopra in glowing terms when talking of his shot-making abilities. And he showed that in ample measure in the first three rounds of Buick Open, which were available live on TV.

Soon after his third round, when he was asked if he thought about the Ryder Cup or whether it was a goal of his, Chopra said: “It is a huge goal. It’s nothing that I actually set out consciously. I paid my membership at The European Tour on the chance that if I play well, that team is going to be a possibility. The closer and closer we get to it, the more it becomes a dream of mine which it has been since I was a kid, but something that was a dream that’s close to being realised.”

Making the Ryder Cup team is always a tough one. Chopra is in top-10 of the Top-10 Ryder Cup World Ranking points, but he needs to be in top-5 by August 31 to be sure. Or else he might need to be one of the two picks for European Ryder Cup captain Nick Faldo.

Since Chopra plays only on US Tour - though he is also a European Tour member - he can qualify only through the category of Ryder Cup World Points list, where he needs to be in top-5. For others, who play regularly in Europe, they can also get in through Ryder Cup European Tour points list.

Chopra, who revels in his obsession for ‘chicken tikka masala’ and other Indian dishes, said: “Well, the Ryder Cup is a big part of the stories now. I’m one of the players now who has a great opportunity to get in. I was very high up in the rankings beginning of the year and gradually fell out. I always said, even then, that it was going to be a tough one to make because of the top-five off the World Ranking points. If you look at The European Team, there are a lot of really, really good players, and I have to compete with them and I have to play better than them.

“It’s not just a Top-10 list that I need to make. I need to make a Top-5 list, and that’s pretty tough to do. And if you look at the amount of points that’s been accumulated, I’ve got 120-something-odd points, which is the equivalent of winning a major and coming in second in a PGA TOUR event; and that still is not even close to being on the team yet.

And I think I’m like 40 points behind, which I don’t know, if I win this week, that gives me enough World Ranking points. That would give me three wins, a second and a third and still not be on the team in the last year, the last eight months. So that just goes to show how tough a team that is to make.”

With Sports Channels in abundance and all of them beaming live world-class sports events, live telecast of the PGA Tour is there for all of us to see and enjoy, just as we do for the European and Asian Tours, where Jeev Milkha Singh and gang brought for us some equally memorable moments.

And who knows, there might be a half-Indian teeing up for Europe at the Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Kentucky when defending champions Europe meet United States in the 37th staging of the Ryder Cup in the third week of September this year.

(V. Krishnaswamy is a Consulting Editor with IANS. He can be reached at swamy007@gmail.com)

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