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Arjun Atwal creates history

August 08, 2005 19:55 IST

India's Arjun Atwal will become the first Indian to compete in the US PGA Championships, traditionally the year's fourth and final golf Major, when he tees up at the Lower course at Balsturol Golf Club on Thursday.

Atwal, who is riding a high on the US Tour with more than USD 800,000 which has secured him a full card for 2006 season, would be playing in his first Major of the season and the second of his career.

Atwal, winner of the Order of Merit on Asian Tour in 2003, is paired with Jonathan Kaye and Craig Thomas for the first two rounds.

The genial Indian has been in great form, having made the cut in each of his 12 starts this season. He came within a whisker of becoming the first Indian to win a title on US Tour, when he lost in a five-way play-off at BellSouth Classic and ended second.

He was also tied fifth at Zurich Classic of New Orleans and tied ninth at BC Open.

Atwal played and missed the cut at the British Open last year. Other Indians to have played the Majors are Jyoti Randhawa, three times at the British Open, Gaurav Ghei once at British Open and Jeev Milkha Singh, once at the US Open.

Atwal is the first Indian to have made the field for a Major this year, though Indo-Swede Daniel Chopra played and made the cut at the British Open last month.

"This is a great chance to make a mark at the highest stage," said Atwal. "I have been playing well and hope to make the best of this chance."

Atwal made the field on the strength of his showing on the Tour this season and late last season. He is currently 66th on the Money List.

Atwal has six Asian Tour titles to his name, two of them joint sanctioned with European Tour. His titles include, Indian Open (1999), Hero Honda Masters (2000, 2003), Star Alliance Open (2000), Caltex Singapore Masters (2002) and Carlsberg Malaysian Open (2003).

Another Asian Tour stalwart at the US PGA Championships will be the Thai star, Thongchai Jaidee.

Jaidee, last season's Asian Tour number one, will compete in the year's final Major with his confidence soaring after becoming the first Thai to play in all the four rounds of the British Open at St Andrews last month, finishing tied 52nd.

Tiger Woods, who has won two of the three Majors this year, will attempt to add a third one. He won the Masters and the British Open and in between finished second at the US Open, which was won by Kiwi Michael Campbell.

Meanwhile, Jaidee, who will play the opening two rounds with Charles Howell III and Bob Ford, will face a stern challenge as the Balsturol course is playing at 7,392 yards with a par of 70.

Last year, he received an invite to play in the PGA Championship but missed the halfway cut.

After the PGA Championship, Jaidee will stay in the US and feature in the WGC-NEC Invitational.

The former paratrooper will hope to contend against the likes of defending champion Vijay Singh and world number one Woods, winner of the US Masters and British Open this season.

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