Atwal wins Malaysian Open in dramatic play-off

March 9th, 2008 - 7:26 pm ICT by admin  

(First lead)

Kuala Lumpur, March 9 (IANS) Arjun Atwal played one of his finest rounds with an eight-under 64 and then held his nerve in a dramatic play-off to beat defending champion Peter Hedblom of Sweden and win the Maybank Malaysian Open Golf a second time. Atwal’s stunning display Sunday saw him rise from overnight 11th to get to 18-under and into a two-man play-off. He then survived two tense play-off holes against Hedblom to register a dramatic win the Malaysian Open which he won once earlier in 2003.

Third overnight Jyoti Randhawa shot a final round 71 to finish at 15-under 273 in tied sixth place for his fourth successive top-10 finish. India’s other challengers, Gaurav Ghei (70) finished 37th at eight-under 280 and S.S.P.Chowrasia (74) was 46th at six-under 282.

Atwal and Hedblom had both finished at 18-under 270, with Hedblom’s birdie putt on the 18th of regulation play left hanging on the lip of the cup, less than a quarter of an inch outside.

A dramatic play-off ensued. Overnight leader Hedblom hit the water with his tee shot on the 18th, but clawed his way back for a par. Atwal, peppering the pins all day then messed up his second shot. He failed to reach the green in three, leaving it short on the edge of the bunker for a tough fourth shot. He managed a superb up-and-down for par to send the tournament into a second play-off hole.

The second play-off hole on the 17th was as equally dramatic. On the 207-yard hole, Hedblom found the green, but was 60 feet away from the flag. Atwal missed the green with his tee shot and then came up with a great chip to about seven feet. Hedblom’s first putt was short and he then missed an eight-footer for par. Atwal holed his putt and dropped his putter in relief and joy as he won his first title in five years.

“An unbelievable win,” is how Atwal described it.

“After all I have been through last year and a half, this is huge for me. I just can’t put it in words,” Atwal said immediately after the win.

Four weeks after fellow Kolkatan S.S.P.Chowrasia rocked the European Tour by winning the Indian Masters on home soil, Atwal added another glorious chapter in Indian golf.

Indian golfers have now won twice, finished second twice and once fifth in what has been an amazing five-week stretch. While Chowrasia won the Indian Masters, Jeev Milkha Singh was second in Indonesia Open and Jyoti Randhawa was second in SAIL Open, an Asian Tour event and last week Shiv Kapur was fifth in Johnnie Walker Classic in Gurgaon.

Earlier during the day there was a two-hour delay because of inclement weather.

Atwal, who has been on a comeback trail after battling poor form and a tense off-course accident, in which he was cleared only last month, has had a good season with a second place in Nationwide and then three finishes in top-15.

It was Atwal’s third European Tour win after his 2002 Singapore Masters and 2003 Malaysian Open.

Atwal, who was 10-under and lying tied 11th at the end of the third round, played the round of his life. He capped the regulation play-off with a 10-foot putt for birdie to get to 18-under and then sat in the clubhouse for 40 minutes waiting for the others to finish.

As Englishman Simon Dyson, who led for most of the final day, dropped out of the race with a bogey on the 16th and then failed to get a birdie in last two holes, it boiled down to Hedblom and Atwal.

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