The PGA's Players with Pizzazz
Some professional golfers are not cookie-cutter people with robot-like personalities, and they bring those sometimes off-the-wall qualities to every tournament.
From the Print Edition:
Armand Assante, Mar/Apr 2008
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"I was the highest-ranking player in the field at the Volvo China Open," says Chopra. "Sandy Lyle was in the field and we played together the first two rounds. They arranged a photo shoot for us to go up to the Great Wall of China for us to hit golf balls off the wall. I teed up a ball between the cracks, hit a 5-iron from the top. It was a fun thing."
Chopra's multiethnic, multicultural and, at 35, can still be considered a child of the world. He's lived in Sweden, England and India, he's married to an Australian and there isn't a continent on the globe with a golf tour he hasn't visited, and often. After winning last year, he didn't take an off-season, instead traveling to play in Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand.
"I love the fact I have two different heritages," says Chopra. "I was only supposed to be in [India] a couple of years. I moved there when I was seven. I started playing golf, started playing cricket, started going to school, and by the time it was time for me to move back, I didn't want to. I'm very proud to be half and half. People say, Do you feel more Swedish or Indian? I see myself as Swedish when I'm in Sweden and Indian when I'm in India. I feel right down the middle. It's hard to explain to somebody that doesn't share that type of upbringing."
He speaks Swedish, Hindi and English, which makes for some interesting practice-round chatter. "When I was playing the European Tour I'd play a practice round with Arjun [Atwal] and we'll have a Swedish guy playing in the same group and I'll speak Swedish to him and Indian to Arjun and English to my caddie. I remember we had some American guy playing with us, and he was like, What the hell just happened?"
When Chopra picked up David Duval's former caddie, Mitch Knox, there was a momentary language barrier: Knox's drawl might be thicker than Weekley's. "Yeah, I had to watch 'Larry the Cable Guy' for about a month to figure it out," says Chopra.
Now he seems to be figuring out how to push himself into the upper echelon of the game. Inside the ropes he isn't Swedish or Indian. "Then I'm just me," he says. "I don't think your heritage has anything to do with how you think. You think in golf, the language of golf."
Golf is the most individual of sports, and it sports the most individuals. While fans roam courses and park themselves in front of televisions to watch players of extraordinary talent, those players are doing much more than booming drives and snaking putts. The PGA Tour has always had its share of characters, and still does. It wouldn't be nearly as interesting without them.
Jeff Williams is a Cigar Aficionado contributing editor.
Illustration by Gary Hovland
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