KAPALUA, Hawaii -- This was golf played the way the Patriots play football, the way Red Sox play baseball. This was power golf, offensive golf on a robust, wide-open course that rewards the bold and sneers at the timid.
This was the Mercedes-Benz Championship, on the Plantation Course, which sweeps up and down the old pineapple fields in a linkage of fairways that seem as wide as they are long. And, with a total yardage of 7,411 yards, they are long.
|Daniel Chopra's misses leave the door open for Steve Stricker, but he doesn't capitalize. (AP)|
The Mercedes, the $5.5 million event only for winners the previous year, had never been this extended or this dramatic. It couldn't have lasted much longer, not on this Sunday, because the sun was setting beyond the island of Lanai in the distance.
Chopra and Stricker each finished with 18-under-par totals of 274 on the Plantation, with its unusual par of 73, the 33-year-old Chopra shooting a 7-under 66 on Sunday and Stricker a brilliant 9-under 64 that matched Hunter Mahan for the low round of the day.
Stephen Ames was third at 17-under 275, third-day leader Mike Weir fourth at 276 and Mahan at 278 with Jim Furyk and Nick Watney.
Chopra was born in Sweden and has a Swedish mother and Indian father. This, then, is the seventh consecutive Mercedes won by a non-American.
"It's unbelievable," Chopra said of the victory that gained him $1.1 million and a Mercedes CL550, worth more than $60,000. "I kept making birdies, and at times I looked at the scoreboards and saw I had the lead. But Steve kept chasing me down. I kept hitting good putts. Finally it paid off."
The Mercedes is the traditional opener of the PGA Tour, and if the events that follow are anything similar, there are going to be a lot of chewed nails.
"It's disappointing after the way I played this week," Stricker said of losing the playoff. "The first nine holes on Thursday cost me. After that, I played well. This was a bittersweet day."
Chopra had played almost four years on Tour before he won the Ginn sur Mer Classic in Florida in October. Now he gets that second victory without delay.
For a long while, Chopra was best known as the person who first hit a golf ball off the Great Wall of China. He did that in 1995 when playing the Asian Tour. But he's much more than a guy with a gimmick, having won on various continents.
Chopra had a three-shot lead over Stricker after 13 but then didn't make another birdie until the fourth extra hole, which was the 521-yard ninth on the Plantation.