Rambo Chopra moves into sole lead at Buick Open

June 29th, 2008 - 4:32 pm ICT by IANS  

Grand Blanc (Michigan), June 29 (IANS) Daniel Chopra swinging wildly off the tee, but playing sublime approach shots, many of them from the roughs to score four-under 68 which put him two shots ahead of the field Saturday at the end of the third round of the Buick Open at Warwick Hills. Chopra, who some caddies have begun calling ‘Rambo’ for his ability to find birdies from the trees, birdied the closing hole, the 18th, to compile a 68 and reach 16-under 200 as he goes in search of his third PGA Tour title in eight months. He was followed by Dudley Hart (70) who had his first bogey of the tournament on the 18th, Bubba Watson (68) and Woody Austin (69), who were tied for second. Second-round leader Bo Van Pelt (73) was another shot back along with Keny Perry (67), the highest-ranked player in the field.

“I have a good imagination and can hit trundlers and cuts and hooks and find ways to get it on the green,” said Chopra. “As long as you give me a swing and some kind of a gap, I’m pretty good at finding it. This golf course allows you to do that. It relaxes me a little bit off the tee so that I can go ahead and hit it. If I miss, I can use my skill to recover.”

Despite the two shot lead, Chopra said any of the 10 players who are 12 under or better have a chance to win at Warwick Hills, one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. “It’s going to be an absolute shootout,” he predicted.

Chopra, who won the Gin-Sur Classic last year and Mercedes Championships in the first event of this year, went to the top of the leaderboard for the first time at the ninth hole Hart bogeyed for the first time in the tournament.

Later Hart joined Chopra with a birdie at 16, but a poor drive on 18 landed him in trouble and he needed to make a 30-foot putt just to stay within a stroke. He missed for a bogey and fell two behind as Chopra birdied.

Chopra found just three of the 14 fairways but he played amazing golf from the roughs and recovered well enough to find 13 of 18 greens. He showed superb and innovative shot making with the irons and wedges and scrambled for par and even got birdies.

Chopra’s wild tee shots, which saw him get into the rough and trees more often the fairways, earned a new nickname. He revealed that some of the caddies named him ‘Rambo’.

He said: “In the first couple of rounds, the caddies for Jeff Maggert and Todd Hamilton, said, `We are going to come up with a nickname for you.’ And Hamilton’s caddie said, `I think Daniel, you’re Rambo’. They said, ‘Yeah, you’re lethal from the trees.’ It was funny because I made more birdies out of the trees the first day than I did from the fairway; so that was kind of funny.”

“It’s something I prided myself on is being able to use my imagination and come up and find the desperate shot when I’m in trouble and just don’t give up. And if I can find a way and find a gap, I’ll go for it, and most of the time, I’ll pull it off. Hit a few trees along the way, but it seems to pay off.”

Chopra, whose father is Indian and mother Swedish was born in Stockholm but learnt his early golf in India while living with his grandparents. He won the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, close on the heels of the win at the second last tournament last year. But he failed to finish better than top 30 in any PGA Tour tournament since.

Chopra’s only bogey of the day came on the par-5 first hole. On the second his decent enough drive kicked through the fairway and Chopra in a Rambo style punched it and then rolled it up on the green about eight feet behind the hole and made it for birdie out of the trees.

On sixth, he made a 15-footer for birdies and on seventh, he hit the second shot over the back of the green in the back bunker but got that up-and-down for a birdie. On tenth, he hit a little lob-wedge in there to about 12 feet right of the hole and made a good downhill right-to-lefter, and on 18th he hit nine -iron just left of the hole and made a 15-footer there for a final birdie.

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