Practising with Tiger is motivation enough for me: Atwal

March 9th, 2008 - 9:14 pm ICT by admin  


Kuala Lumpur, March 9 (IANS) Arjun Atwal plays at the same club as the World No 1 Tiger Woods and then quietly reveals that he often practises with him. He may not hang around with Tiger, but has built a relationship good enough to ask the winner of 13 Majors for any help to iron out problems. Struck down by a patch of bad back, poor form and finally a car accident that led to investigations, in which he was cleared only last month, Atwal has gone through a lot in last 18 months.

“The birth of my second son, Shiva, has been the best thing,” Atwal admits. And now comes this win, which is yet to sink.

Atwal, who hails from a business family, has also some plans - which he does not want to make public, at least as yet - to help golf grow at the grassroots level.

The win in Malaysian Open gives him the right to play Asian and European Tour till the end of 2010, but he heads of to US from here to play the Nationwide Tour and try and get back to the US Tour to play alongside, who else but Tiger Woods!

Excerpts of an interview with Atwal soon after the win in Malaysian Open:

Arjun, how does that feel?

It hasn’t sunk in yet. When it does, I’ll let you know. Right now, I’m in a different world.

The playoff was not pretty. After he hit it in the water, I wanted to hit it anywhere left and I was a little tight on my swing. Pulled it a little bit and got an aweful lie in the right and didn’t catch it solid and then hit the bunker shot fat. But I somehow got it into the hole.
But unfortunately for Peter, he three putted and I made that putt for par on 17.

Is this the end of a chapter in your life?
I think so, I don’t know how to put it in words. To come out of that and win, it’s great for me personally.

Tell us a bit about your golf in US?

I belong in the same club as Tiger Woods in Orlando and he’s been a big help to me. Just practising with him and watching him work the way he does is a motivation enough for me. For him to come and help me with my swing and more on the fitness factor has been really big for me.

He doesn’t give me lessons. But anytime I have problems, I can ask him and he’ll help me out. One thing about the chipping. He’s always working around the greens, this winter he was working on his short games and he actually hooks his chips or fades his chips. For us, it’s get it up and down. He’s working on different type of shots. He was showing me this hook chip. If you get anything from the world number one, you’ll take it gladly.

How long have you known Tiger?
We don’t hang out like socially. We meet at the club and practice together. I’ve know him since the 1998 Johnnie Walker Classic when we played in the final round and he won there.

Did you feel like you had a realistic chance this morning?
No. I’ve been playing pretty solid the last four weeks but it’s been the same thing, I’ve been in the top-15 and haven’t been able to get up the last few weeks. Today I kind of relaxed right on the first hole and chilled out and never thought of making any score and started making birdies. By the time I birdied 10 and 11, I looked at the leaderboard and had a chance.

In the last five years, were you frustrated that you didn’t win?
When I got my card on the PGA Tour, I thought I was going to win and then I hurt my back. The last two years have been really frustrating. End of ‘06 and whole of 2007 I want to forget. Before that, I was playing okay. A win is a win and it’s been five years and I’m glad that I got it done.

Plans now for the future?
I want to get my PGA Tour card back. We moved to Orlando and my eldest son goes to school there. But having won this, I have to reassess but it’s too early to talk about that.

How did the weather interruption affect you?
I was getting nervous. If we kept playing, it would have been fine because I made a great save for par on 16 before the delay. When you’re playing, you don’t have many thoughts. When I came back to the clubhouse, I saw my name one back at the time and you have all the thoughts in your head as I’ve not been in this position for a while. It was tough to deal with. Therefore, I hit it way right on the 17th. That’s the way I felt.

It’s great to have so many fans here. I’ve not been here for the past five years since winning and I was surprised that so many people were calling out my name today.

I’m playing on the Nationwide Tour. If I can lock my card up for the PGA Tour early enough, I can plan my schedule.

How has the Asian Tour helped in your career?
Immensely, my first Q-School was in 1995 and just to learn how to make cuts and finally be in contention and finally win, all those I learnt on the Asian Tour. Those were the best years of my life. I still say it. I had so much fun and everyone are so close. You still see the guys out here, it’s great.

How do you see golf in India developing?
Jeev, Jyoti, SSP and all these guys contending and winning. It’s amazing and winning. So many guys from India are contending in big tournaments. I think it’s awesome. I want to start something for the juniors in India. I want to help them in the long run which there isn’t really much right now. There are a lot of young kids turning pro but there is not much of a junior programme in India. That’s what India needs. I’ve got an outline but I’ve not shared it with anyone yet. It’s going to be free for all kids. But I’ve got to get the right funding first. That’s why I don’t want to talk too much about it first.

Will this be the first programme for caddies and amateurs in India?
There’s a few but not in a big scale. They’ll have a few caddies and a few amateurs from the club but it’s never been in the scale that I’m thinking about. It’s not just caddies, if streets from off the streets want to try and play golf, we’ll let it try for free. That’s how I want to go about it.

This is your third co-sanctioned win, will you needle Jeev a little bit as he’s won two?
Yeah I will, definitely. Actually, we push each other. Jeev and I, it’s always like that, it’s good and it’s healthy. We always needle each other but we’re always happy for each other.

Three Asian Tour winners in the last four co-sanctioned events. Does this speak well for the Asian Tour?
Absolutely. You see how the Asian Tour has come about. I started in 1995 and it was tough for the first few years for the Asians to win big events but now, it happens every year. It’s great.

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