Chopra named Fresh Express Classic winner when fog halts final round

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Published: Sunday, April 17, 2011 | 11:24 p.m.

Daniel Chopra was declared the winner of the Nationwide Tour’s Fresh Express Classic at TPC Stonebrae Sunday when heavy fog rolled into northern California and ultimately forced the cancellation of the final round. 

The start of the fourth round was delayed four hours before the fog cleared enough to give the players the green light to start at 1:30 p.m. The day was short-lived as the fog returned and officials suspended play four hours later. The round was canceled because there was not sufficient time to complete the round on Sunday and the option of Monday play was not available, thus the final tournament standings reverted back to the 54-hole scores.

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2011 FRESH EXPRESS CLASSIC

This is the third straight year the Nationwide Tour has played in Hayward, Calif., and the second in a row with Fresh Express as the title sponsor.

Nobody had yet to complete the round as the first groups were through 16 holes and the final groups had only played seven.

The 37-year-old Chopra had posted a course-record 61 in Saturday’s third round to reach 12-under 198, one stroke better than Luke List and Monday qualifier Russell Knox.

“A win is a win and I feel just as happy as if we would have finished today,” said Chopra, who collects his first title since taking the 2008 Mercedes-Benz Championship in a playoff over Steve Stricker to open the PGA Tour season. “I’m kind of shock, really. All of a sudden the buzzer sounds and I have this (trophy).”

Chopra, a two-time PGA Tour winner, collected his third Nationwide Tour title and his first since taking the 2004 Henrico County Open. The victory was worth $108,000 and moved him to No. 3 on the money list.

“We were eight minutes away from calling the tournament and suddenly the fog disappeared and we were playing,” said Chopra. “For most of the day it looked like we weren’t going to play. The hardest thing was the mental uncertainty because I haven’t been in this position for a few years.”

When fourth-round play began, Chopra stumbled with a bogey at No. 2 and eventually relinquished the lead to the 25-year-old Knox, a Monday qualifier making only his fourth career start on the Nationwide Tour. Knox took possession of the lead with his birdie at the par-3 sixth hole. Playing with Knox and List, Chopra birdied No. 7 to regain a share of the lead.

“I’m not going to sit on the plane tomorrow and feeling any less happy or any less satisfied because I played well,” said the winner. “It wasn’t handed back to me. I was still in it and tied for the lead at the buzzer.”

Chopra, who missed the cut in his only other start at the Panama Claro Championship, earned the win when he flirted with shooting a 59 in Saturday’s third round. He was 10 under par through 16 holes on the par-70 layout and needed only one more birdie on his final two holes to join an elite group of players. His 45-foot birdie putt at No. 17 missed by inches and an errant second shot at No. 18 ultimately led to his only bogey of the day.

Knox, a native of Scotland, was a co-leader after 36 holes and had a chance to tie for the lead but missed a short birdie putt on his final hole. That missed 4-footer turned out to be the difference between a chance at a playoff and a share of second place.

“I’m not sure how things would have turned out today,” said Knox. “I really had no idea. I just tried to play to see how well I could do. I was playing well and thinking that maybe I had a chance to win.”

When the fog returned, as it is known to do in the San Francisco Bay area, nobody had a chance.

“We’re all disappointed that we didn’t have the opportunity to complete things today,” said Nationwide Tour Tournament Director Orlando Pope. “It was shaping up to be quite a finish. A lot of people worked very hard this week. Unfortunately, our tour has a very limited provision for pushing play into Monday, but that option wasn’t available to us.”

Fourth-Round Notes:

--With his win, Daniel Chopra collects his third win on the Nationwide Tour in 54 career starts, the others being the 2004 First Tee Arkansas Classic and 2004 Henrico County Open. He also collects a check for $108,000, the largest of his Nationwide Tour career, and becomes the third of four players in his 30s to win on the 2011 Nationwide Tour.

--Daniel Chopra’s win at the 2004 Henrico County Open came when he set the Nationwide Tour 72-hole scoring record. Chopra finished a whopping 30 under par and won by four strokes over Franklin Langham and Nathan Green.

--Earlier this year, the Pacific Rubiales Bogota Open was reduced to 36 holes after rains plagued the tournament every day. Brenden Pappas was declared the “unofficial” winner but received official money.

--Mathew Goggin’s tie for fourth place was worth $23,625, which was enough to push him past Brenden Pappas into the No. 1 spot on the money list. Goggin, winner of the season-opening Panama Claro Championship, is now up to $124,975. Goggin previously spent six weeks at No. 1 during the 1999 season.

--Monday qualifiers Russell Knox (tied for second) and Garrett Sapp (tied for ninth) both will advance to play in the Tour’s next event, the South Georgia Classic in two weeks.

--The last time the fourth round was canceled on the Nationwide Tour was at the Rex Hospital Open last year. The start of the fourth round was delayed for three hours. Play lasted less than two hours before another storm forced officials to cancel the round and the final results reverted back to the third round, where John Riegger held a five-stroke lead. The last time the fourth round was canceled without a single stroke taken was the 2005 Oregon Classic, where Joff Gove was the winner.