On this day in 2010 a certain Indian golfer became the first from his nation to win on the PGA Tour. Here is the story of how Arjun Atwal bravely prevailed at the Wyndham Championship.
Arjun Atwal has achieved many things during his history-making career.
He is the first from the sub-continent to: win a European Tour event ‒ achieved at the 2002 Caltex Singapore Masters; earn over US$1 million in career earnings on the Asian Tour, in 2003; and taste victory on the Korn Ferry Tour, when he lifted the 2008 Chattanooga Classic trophy.
The list of honours goes on and on: he was the 2003 Asian Tour Order of Merit champion, claimed eight titles on the Asian Tour, and recorded three European Tour success.
But if that is the iceberg beneath the surface then the tip is his memorable victory in the Wyndham Championship, at Sedgefield Country Club, on the PGA Tour on August 22 in 2010 ‒ on this day 11 years ago.
It was a success full of emotion and significance
BENEFITS AND RECORDS
It meant he became the first Indian golfer to clinch a PGA Tour title, but it also allowed him to regain his playing card on the most lucrative tour in the game within weeks of losing it.
And it saw him become the first Monday-qualifier to win on the PGA Tour in 24 years (Fred Wadsworth was the last to achieve such a feat at the 1986 Southern Open).
He was 37 years old at the time, entering the twilight of his career, and having been struggling with his game, partly through injuries, his greatest triumph ‒ which importantly earned him his status on the PGA Tour for the remainder of that year and the next two years ‒ came completely out of the blue.
Atwal, who had a three-shot lead going into the final round, carded a three-under-par 67 to secure the title by a shot, from American David Toms, with a total of 20-under-par 260.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet, seriously. Obviously, it was a long-time dream but until it happens you just keep doubting yourself. I had my doubts despite a three-shot lead,” said Atwal, at the time. He also picked up a cheque for US$918,000 for his effort.
“I am so glad, I was very nervous, the most nervous I have been in all my life. My swing wasn’t feeling great but I just grinded it out and got it done somehow.”
CALM IN THE STORM
In a composed final day performance, Atwal picked up strokes on the third and fourth holes to be two-under at the turn.
On his way back, he added another two birdies on the 14th and 16th but a bogey on the 12th prevented him from going 21 under, something that his friend and practice partner American Tiger Woods had asked him to aim for the night before the final round in a text message.
“My goal was to get it to 21 under today. I came up one short. Actually, that’s the number my friend Tiger Woods also told me to get to last night,” he said.
“It’s all text, we never talk. He’s busy I guess,” he added.
Atwal mentioned he was glad the Wyndham tournament was televised live in India where his parents were watching, even though it was the middle of the night there.
“There’s definitely pride in what I’ve done in my career,” the Indian star said more recently.
“Playing on the Asian Tour taught me a lot and it’s a matter of pride to be first Indian to win on the PGA Tour, Korn Ferry Tour, European Tour … that’s not bad. I’ve always dreamt about playing here [in the US] and this is the dream. Hopefully I can become the first Indian to win on Champions Tour as well. There may be generations doing much more after me, but they can’t take away being the first. It’s pretty cool coming from a country of 1.3 billion people.”