I am looking forward to getting back to PGA: Atwal (To go with Atwal wins maiden title, earns ticket back to PGA Tour)

October 20th, 2008 - 9:35 am ICT by IANS  

Chattanooga (Tennessee), Oct 20 (IANS) Four years ago, Indian golfer Arjun Atwal lost a chance to register a PGA Tour win in his rookie season, when he lost a five-way play-off at the 2004 BellSouth Classic. This time in Chattanooga, where the world’s first Coca Cola bottling plant is located, Atwal uncorked champagne with a win in the play-off to grab the Chattanooga Classic and with it earn a return to the PGA Tour in 2009.An elated and relieved Atwal, who has won many times in Asia, admitted it was a big relief. “Yeah, it does (feel great). I’ve been working for this (win) all my career. Trying to win in America, and it feels really good. And also the fact that I’m getting my card back on the PGA Tour will be a sweet bonus, I’m looking forward to that,” said Atwal.

Speaking about Webb Simpson, his rival, with whom he battled for the last three days, Atwal added: “Oh, he’s a great player. I had spoken with Webb a couple of times. I knew he was (a) Monday qualifier, and he made a lot of Monday qualifiers on the tour. And then he put himself in position to win here, and he gave it a great shot. Either one of us could have won in that playoff, and it just happened that he missed that putt.

“But he’s a great player, he’s going to win a lot of tournaments, and it was for me as far as I’m concerned, it was a big grind today (Sunday). You know, just not with my golf swing as much as with my emotions and my mind to try to keep it in check. And, you know, somehow I got it done, which is good.”

Talking about his last three holes, Atwal admitted it was tense. “Standing on 16th tee, I was two ahead. I never felt comfortable off that tee all week. I kind of shoved my drive right into the lip of a bunker. I had to chip it out. Hit an awful third shot into the greenside bunker. Then didn’t get it up and down. So that was a quick double. And he makes a par, so we’re tied.

“But what I told myself was that still I haven’t lost the lead. We’re still tied, you know, and I’m still in control of my game. I can’t control whatever he does, and, after that, I hit solid shots. That 17th hole was playing really hard. It was about 230 to the hole. I had a nice little cut 3-iron to the middle of the green.”

On the 17th, Simpson made a great save about which Atwal said: “Webb pulled his in the hazard left over the green, and what a great up and down he had. He was under a tree, and he hit it out to like 30 feet and holed the putt. On 18 we both hit it on in two, about similar distances, and two-putted. So it was a good fight. At first (eagle putt on 18th) in regulation, I thought that putt was going in. It was turning all the way, and at the hole it just straightened up, but it was all right.”

In the play-off, Atwal was on in two and two-putted while Simpson came out of a bunker on the second, but missed his birdie putt.

Talking of getting back to the PGA Tour, Atwal said he was looking forward to that. “I wanted that. I’ve got all those other cards and all those other tours, and we moved to Orlando five years ago. And I just played on the PGA Tour four years, and I want to get back there and see if I can do a slightly better job of playing there.”

On the remainder of the season, he said: “I know I’m playing Miami (Miccosukee) next week. But it depends on the Tour Championship. I might go play a tournament in China (HSBC Champions in Shanghai) for the champions of the European Tour and the Asian Tour, and I’m in it. And it’s $5 million, so I might go. I am going to Singapore anyway to play the $5 million event there and the Hong Kong Open. So I might make it three in a row over there.”

But he may well have been teeing up at both Miccosukee and Tour Championships if it wasn’t for a win on Sunday. “Oh, there was no choice, I wasn’t going to go (to Shanghai). I was going to play it the rest of the year out here and then go to Singapore, and now I have a choice, I guess.”

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