Chopra aims to capture birdies but no snakes

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 13 November, 2007, 12:00am

Expect Daniel Chopra to tread carefully if he hits his ball into the rough during this week's UBS Hong Kong Open.

The Swede still clearly recalls a startling encounter with a huge snake during the 2006 tournament.

'It was scary at the time and really funny afterwards,' recalls the Indian-raised Swede.

'I was playing with Michael Campbell and I hit my ball in the trees on the left-hand side of number 10. I went looking for my ball and saw it about 15 feet away.

'When you do that, you just focus on it, so I was immediately trying to see if I had a shot, but then as I started to walk towards it I felt something hit against the bottom of my foot. I looked down and it was a snake slithering away. It was at least six feet long, maybe eight. It was a big snake, that's for sure. I jumped out of my skin!'

Opponents will soon have as much reason to fear Chopra as much as he does snakes if he continues his steady rise up golf's world rankings.

Certainly he will be one of the leading contenders when the Open gets under way at the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling on Thursday. The US$2.25 million showpiece is headlined by no less than seven players who have won on the PGA Tour, including two-time US Open champion Retief Goosen, 2003 Masters winner Mike Weir and world number 11 K.J. Choi. Chopra, 33, is among that elite company, having claimed his maiden PGA Tour victory in the Ginn sur Mer Classic at Tesoro, Florida, last month.

It was his third top-10 finish of the year and helped him end the US season in 48th place on the money list, confirming his status as a rising star.

'It was obviously fantastic, my first PGA Tour win,' said Chopra, who was born in Sweden but grew up in India from the age of seven.

'To get that win and then think about where I started from, learning the game at Delhi Golf Club and having to fly overseas just to get equipment, I knew that I had come a long way.'

Snakes alive!

The hole on which Daniel Chopra had his encounter last year with a large, slithering hazard with a difference: 10th