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Atwal shines in moderate year for Indian golf

Last updated on: December 30, 2010 08:21 IST

First Indian to win on US PGA tour

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Arjun Atwal's historic title triumph on the PGA Tour was the high point of an otherwise moderate year for Indian golf, during which seasoned campaigner Jeev Milkha Singh's fortunes took a massive tumble due to niggling injuries.

Atwal, a former Asian Tour number one, scripted history by emerging as the first Indian to win on the US PGA Tour, at the Wyndham Championship in August.

It was resurgence of sorts for the Orlando-based golfer who had struggled with injuries over the past couple of years and lost his PGA card going into the tournament.

He was also the first Monday qualifier in 24 years to win a tournament on the PGA Tour. The victory secured Atwal an invitation to next year's Masters Tournament, making him only the second Indian after Jeev to play in the year's first Major at Augusta National.


Image: Arjun Atwal

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Biggest name in Indian golf

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The Wyndham triumph also fetched him a place in the list of nominees for the Asian Tour's Special Achievement Award, but he lost out to Thai legend Boonchu Ruangkit.

The 37-year-old neighbour and practice partner of Tiger Woods thus became the biggest name in Indian golf with one PGA, three European and seven Asian titles to his credit.

It was a fantastic turnaround of fortunes for the golfer, who was hampered by weightlifting injuries to both shoulders for a couple of seasons.

Three years ago, a driver racing with him on an Orlando street died in a crash and although Atwal was cleared of any wrongdoing, the year-long investigation took an emotional toll on the golfer.

But having recovered from the turmoil, he ended the year as the highest-ranked Indian in Asia -- at 124th -- which put him seventh on the regional list.


Image: Arjun Atwal and Tiger Woods

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Jeev had a forgettable year

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In contrast, it was a forgettable year for Jeev.

For a major part of the season's first half, Jeev nursed a rotator cuff injury in his left shoulder and soon after recovering from that, he was laid low by a back problem due to which he experienced the "worst pain" in his career.

Part of the Asian team for next month's Royal Trophy in Thailand, the Chandigarh-golfer is actually in doubt for the event because of the nagging problem which forced him to skip the Indian Open -- the joint richest Asian Tour event, held at the Delhi Golf Club.

Such has been the slide for Jeev this year, that from being the first Indian to make the top-50 of the world rankings, he is down to 168th and been forced to cut down on the number of tournaments he plays to avoid burn-out.

"I generally play 36 tournaments, but next year I would play around 30. So I will cut down around a month from my usual schedule," the injury-ravaged golfer said.

Jeev has a minor medical exemption on the PGA Tour for 2011. After just two top-25 finishes in 19 events he has been given Minor Medical Extension.

The golfer, who has six Asian, four Japan and three European Tour titles under his belt, finished 164th on the PGA Tour Money List and has four events next season to earn $366,732 and get elevated to the Major Medical category.


Image: Jeev Milkha Singh

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Randhawa, SSP, Kapur disappoint again

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Similar was the story of Jyoti Randhawa. The Delhi-pro missed several cuts on the European Tour, leading to a loss of card and came a cropper at the Indian Open, where he went in as a three-time champion.

Towards the end of the season, a neck injury only added to his woes.

The other regular campaigners such as Shiv Kapur and SSP Chowrasia also struggled on the circuit, and, as a result of the Indians' combined poor form, the Indian Open did not have an Indian winner.

Defending champion C Muniyappa struggled with a bad back and the rest of the top stars also failed to make the best of the conditions as Swede rookie Rikard Karlberg lifted the trophy even though a little-known Manav Jaini did come close to winning the $1.25 million event.

The tournament itself is in doubt for next year due to a scheduling dispute and the Asian Tour has not given it a slot in its provisional calendar.


Image: Jyoti Randhawa

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Westwood becomes world No 1

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But there was reason to cheer as well when 19-year-old Rashid Khan led India to a silver medal in the Asian Games team event.

The lanky Delhi teen turned professional a month later at the Indian Open, made the cut and even managed to break par in the final round, holding out promise for a bright future.

Internationally, it was all about Tiger Woods' spectacular slide on the course continuing the downfall that followed a sex scandal last year.

Woods lost his number one ranking to England's Lee Westwood and ended the year without a single title triumph against his name as he recovered from the after-effects of the damaging revelations of his promiscuity that ended his marriage.


Image: Lee Westwood

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