Atwal clinches Chattanooga Classic

Arjun Atwal will return to the PGA Tour next season after regaining his card with a sudden death play-off win at the Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic.

updated: October 20, 2008 16:04 IST
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Arjun Atwal will return to the PGA Tour next season after regaining his card with a sudden death play-off win at the Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic, his maiden title triumph in the United States.

The Orlando-based golfer, who earned a whopping $90,000 cheque for his triumph, rose to 15th from 34th in the Nationwide Money List with total earnings of $2,48,000.

The top 25 in the money list make the cut for PGA Tour at the end of the season. With this, the Indian now has cards on four Tours -- Asian, European, PGA and Nationwide.

And with just two tournaments to go in the Nationwide Tour, the 34-year-old, who lost his PGA Card after a disastrous 2007 season, is unlikely to drop out of the top-25 after yesterday's massive win.

"I've been working for this all my career. Trying to win in America, sand it feels really good. And also the fact that I'm getting my card back on the PGA TOUR will be it will be a sweet bonus, I'm looking forward to that," an elated and relieved Atwal said after the thrilling win

Atwal (72) and overnight second and local favourite Webb Simpson (69) finished regulation play at Black Creek at 24-under 264, two strokes shy of the tournament record.

After a front-nine that was studded with a birdie and an eagle against a lone bogey, Atwal had a two-shot lead on the 16th tee but drove into a fairway bunker and had to chip out.

The Indian hit a poor third shot into a greenside bunker resulting in a double-bogey. Simpson made par on that hole leaving the duo tied.

"I told myself I was still in it, I hadn't lost the lead. I was still in control of my game. I can't control what he does," Atwal said reflecting on his round.

Both players then two-putted the par-five 18th for birdies before heading back to the tee for the playoff.

While Atwal kept his cool, nerves got the better of the 23-year-old Simpson, whose second shot found the greenside bunker after both had driven in to the fairway.

Atwal hit a hybrid club to 25 feet before comfortably two-putting for a birdie.

"Either one of us could have won in that playoff, and it just happened so that he missed that putt. But he's a great player, he's going to win a lot of tournaments, and it was for me as far as I'm concerned, it was a big grind today.

"You know, just not with my golf swing as much as with my emotions and my mind to try to keep it in check. And, you know, somehow I got it done, which is good," said Atwal, the 2003 Asian Tour number one.

Atwal said he was looking forward to returning to the PGA Tour after the year-long toil that has seen his form between oscillate good, bad and worse.

"It's a great feeling. You know. I wanted that. I've got like you said, all those other cards and all those other tours, and we've moved to Orlando in the last -- we've been there five years.

"And I just played on the PGA TOUR four years, and I want to get back there and see if I can do a slightly better job of playing there," he said.

Atwal will next be seen in action at the Miccosukee Classic next week in Miami before he makes a choice between playing the Tour Championship or tournaments in China or Europe a week later.

"I know I'm playing Miami (Miccosukee) next week. I will play Miami next week. But it depends on the Tour Championship. I might go play.

"There is a tournament in China for the champions of the European Tour and the Asian Tour, and I'm in it. And it's USD 5 million, so I might go. I am going to Singapore anyway to play the USD 5 million event there and the Hong Kong Open. So I might make it three in a row over there," he said.

Had it not been for this win, the Kolkata-golfer might as well have been forced to continue playing on the Nationwide Tour for his PGA Card.

"Oh, there was no choice, I wasn't going to go. I was going to play it the rest of the year out here and then go to Singapore, and now I have a choice, I guess," he said.