Chopra hangs on to win delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. (AP) Daniel Chopra tapped in for par, then pumped his right fist into the air.
Finally, victory was his.
Chopra re-claimed the outright lead with a birdie at the par-5 16th hole Monday morning and held on to win the oft-delayed Ginn sur Mer Classic, edging Fredrik Jacobsen and Shigeki Mauryama by one shot for his first PGA Tour triumph.
"It's amazing," Chopra said. "It's something that I've dreamed about for a long time."
Chopra finished at 19 under, becoming the 12th first-time winner on tour this season.
The win came in Chopra's 133rd career start, and the $810,000 winner's check pushed his career earnings to just shy of $5 million. He saw a four-shot lead over his nearest pursuers evaporate as darkness fell on Tesoro Club Sunday night, then returned in the morning and coolly finished off the long-awaited win.
"Coming from India, growing up there, having to fly overseas just to buy golf balls because you couldn't buy them in India at the time, to think I could come from there to being a winner on the PGA Tour, it's pretty special," said the Swedish-born Chopra, who moved to India when he was 7 and raised by his grandparents.
Maruyama left with one pretty good consolation prize - a card for next season.
His tie for second earned him $396,000, vaulting him from 137th to 103rd on the money list with just one tournament remaining, meaning he's a cinch to finish among the top 125 and have full playing privileges next season. Not bad, considering he was at No. 208 on the list earlier this year.
"This year was really hard, the most difficult year in eight years for myself," said Maruyama, who had been in the top 80 on the money list in each of his first seven years on tour. "I'm really happy."
He won't have to worry about playing next week's Children's Miracle Network Classic at the Disney courses near Orlando, either.
"Bye, bye, Disney," Maruyama said in perfect English.
Jacobsen's finish was his best in 96 starts on tour.
Dicky Pride (64) was alone in fourth at 16 under, earning $216,000 - the second-biggest check of his career, $9,000 shy of what he earned for winning the 1994 St. Jude Classic.
He was at the course Monday morning, just in case there was a playoff.
"Couldn't take the chance," Pride said. "I didn't want my wife to drive home alone, but I had to stay."
Chopra, Maruyama and Jacobsen all entered the morning 18 under, with Chopra having three holes left to play and the others with two. That figured to give Chopra a big edge, since his first hole of Monday was the par-5 16th, the easiest on the course this week and one he'd already made birdie on three times.
Make it four.
Chopra's 10-footer for birdie - after missing the fairway off the tee - gave him a one-shot lead, after Maruyama and Jacobsen both missed the green and scrambled for par at the par-3 17th.
"Well, 17 is not an easy hole, especially not starting on it," Jacobsen said. "You warm up, you do everything and then you're riding a car out to the tee and playing for a tournament when you're trying to finish off a round as well. ... You feel the pulse going a bit."
Chopra didn't find 17 easy, either. He hit the green, albeit 55 feet from the hole, and made a 4-footer to save par and maintain the lead. And at the 18th, needing par to win, his drive found a bunker, but his second shot stopped 25 feet from the hole to set up the title-clinching two-putt.
In a week filled with weather delays, wet conditions and six-hour rounds, he simply survived. Chopra had been close before, with 13 previous top-10 finishes, and finally got it done.
"If you keep putting yourself, sooner or later you break through," Jacobsen said. "It's got to happen and this time he did very well."
Ken Duke (70), Charlie Wi (71), Sean O'Hair (74) and Cameron Beckman (72) finished tied for fifth at 13 under. That was huge for Beckman, who jumped 10 spots to 118th on the money list after winning nearly $160,000 at the Ginn and greatly enhancing his odds of reaching that top-125 plateau.
Bob Estes and Tommy Armour III, who shared the lead after the first two rounds, struggled on the weekend. Estes shot a final-round 77 and finished tied for 12th at 11 under, while Armour shot 78-72 and finished tied for 16th.
Briny Baird, who lives just a few miles from Tesoro Club and was tied for second entering the final round, shot 78 and finished nine shots back.
Notes: Only six players needed to finish their rounds Monday morning. ... It was only the second tournament this year to allow players to lift, clean and place balls in the fairway for all four rounds. Pebble Beach was the other. ... Chopra's 19 under score was his second-best in relation to par on the PGA Tour. He was 21 under at the Frys.com Open last year.