Tue, Aug 24, 2010 - Page 20 News List

Atwal becomes first Indian to claim PGA Tour victory

AP , GREENSBORO, NORTH CAROLINA

Arjun Atwal will no longer have to play early week qualifying events just to make it into tournaments.

Atwal took care of that when he claimed the Wyndham Championship title to become the first Indian player to win on the PGA Tour.

He won at Sedgefield Country Club by one stroke on Sunday, becoming the first Monday qualifier to win on tour in 24 years.

After leading or sharing the lead after each of the first three rounds, Atwal shot a 3-under 67 in the final round. He finished at 20-under 260 and earned US$918,000 — or, more than double the amount he previously earned this year, the reason why his future on tour had been in jeopardy.

“I told my caddie, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose this week. Just go out there and try and win it,”’ Atwal said. “Guys are going to be out there trying to secure their FedEx Cup spots or whatever. We’ve got nothing. I don’t have a card. I don’t have anything. Just go out there and freewheel it, and that’s what I did this week.”

Atwal is the first golfer to win both the qualifier and the tournament that follows since Fred Wadsworth at the 1986 Southern Open.

He had to play his way into the Wyndham on Monday after losing his tour card. Earlier in the week, he said he was considering playing Monday qualifiers this year as a way to make it into tournaments and boost his earnings in a push to regain his card for next year.

No need to do that now, thanks to this victory.

David Toms (64) was 19 under. John Mallinger and Michael Sim of Australia shot 62s to match John Rollins (65) and Justin Leonard (65) at 18 under.

For a few dizzying moments late in a low-scoring day, seven players shared the lead at 18 under.

Atwal, who carried a three-stroke lead into the final round, was at 19 under for most of the day but bogeyed the par-3 12th a few minutes before Lucas Glover bogeyed 14 and Toms, Rollins and Leonard all birdied No. 16.

Atwal reclaimed the lead with a birdie on No. 14, Leonard birdied No. 17 and Toms birdied No. 18 to join them at 19 under. Leonard dropped back a stroke after running into trouble on 18, while Atwal still had three holes to play — giving him more than enough chances to settle things.

Atwal made his move on the par-3 16th, plopping his tee shot 6 feet from the flagstick and sinking his birdie putt to move to 20 under. He followed that with consecutive pars, sinking a 7-foot putt on No. 18 before dropping his putter and extending his arms upward in jubilation after closing out his first tour victory.

Glover (67) finished at 17 under, and Webb Simpson (63), Chris Riley (64), Scott Piercy (68) and second-round co-leader Brandt Snedeker (69) were one stroke behind him.

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