Greensboro, North Carolina, USA, August 23, 2010: PGTI member Arjun Atwal, one of the trailblazers of Indian golf over the last decade, achieved yet another first for India with his ground-breaking win at the Wyndham Championship on Sunday. Atwal (61-67-65-67) became the first Indian to win on the USPGA Tour after he emerged victorious by a stroke at the Sedgefield Country Club. The 2003 Asian number one, who hails from Kolkata and is now based in Orlando, also earned the distinction of becoming the first Monday qualifier to win on the PGA 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 to finish on top of the leaderboard at 20-under 260. He took home a cheque worth $918,000 for his superlative effort. The win also helped Arjun earn a two-year exemption on the PGA Tour which will extend up to 2012.
“I told my caddie that 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 FedExCup spots or whatever. We’ve got nothing. I don’t have a card. I don’t have anything. Just go out there and free-wheel it, and that’s what I did this week.”
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 himself.
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.
“I was thinking about going to the (driving) range, but when he got to 20 under and they said he had a 15-footer on 17, I just went in the clubhouse and tried to cool off,” Toms said. “I was ready to go to the range, if need be, but good for (Atwal). I know it’s tough to get that first victory. … I’m sure that he was battling some nerves, and to pour it in from 6-8 feet on that last hole was pretty impressive.”
The 37-year-old Indian, who had earlier won on the European, Asian and Nationwide tours, added, “It feels great. I have no words. I grinded it today.”
American David Toms finished second at 19 under 261 while his compatriots John Mallinger, John Rollins and Justin Leonard along with Australia’s Michael Sim were tied third at 18 under 262.
Jeev Milkha Singh, the other Indian in the fray, added a 66 to his previous rounds of 64, 68 and 68 to take a share of 18th place on 266.
Mr. Padamjit Sandhu, Director, PGTI, commented on Atwal’s phenomenal achievement, saying, “A very hearty congratulation to Arjun Atwal for his fantastic win at the Wyndham Championships. This win is clearly a defining moment for Indian professional golf and will go a long way in inspiring the current generation of professionals in the country. It has been Arjun’s sheer dedication and work ethic which has made this feat possible, of becoming the first Indian to win on the USPGA Tour. We wish him all the best, and look forward to hosting him soon at a PGTI event”.