Atwal makes nostalgic return at Indian Open

Arjun Atwal celebrates after winning the Wyndham Championship.

Arjun Atwal celebrates after winning the Wyndham Championship.

NEW DELHI, India – Arjun Atwal has come home to his roots.

The U.S. PGA Tour player tees-off Thursday in Hero Honda Indian Open, and acknowledges the tournament put him on the road to better times.

“Winning the Indian Open in 1999 is one of my favorite victories,” Atwal said. “It was my first win on the Asian Tour. It gave me so much confidence as I had been on the Asian Tour four years before that without winning.”

Atwal made front-page headlines in India after winning the Wyndham Championship in August to became the first Indian to win on the U.S. PGA Tour. But his victory in the Indian Open 11 years ago still carries significance for him, and he’s bidding to win it a second time this week at the Delhi Golf Club.

“The Indian Open is a very important part of my schedule, and that is why I try and make it back every year no matter how I am playing or where I am playing,” he said.

Atwal lost his PGA Tour card in July after his medical extension, received due to a shoulder injury, expired and he had failed to earn enough money. A month later, when he won the Wyndham, he became the first Monday qualifier in 24 years to claim victory.

He said winning the Wyndham not only eased his stress, but his physical pains.

“I think it was just the pressure that caused the sore neck,” he said. “I had it worked on every day with the (therapist), but nothing was working. It was obviously in the back of my mind that I had to keep my job and keep my card. Now that pressure has gone.”

Atwal has had other successes at Delhi Golf Club, too. It was the site of his win at the Hero Honda Indian Masters in 2000, and first professional victory – the 1995 DCM Open.

The Indian Open, with a US$1.25 million purse, also features Thaworn Wiratchant of Thailand, who won the event in 2005, Daniel Chopra of Sweden, Paul McGinley of Ireland and three-time Indian Open winner Jyoti Randhawa of India.

Indian Jeev Milkha Singh was forced to withdraw due to a back injury and has been nursing other injuries all year. After finishing 2009 ranked No. 59 in the world, he’s now No. 160. He plans to rest and return next season, focusing on the European Tour and Japan Golf Tour.

Asian Tour contributed to this report.

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