Atwal hopes return to India will help him recover form


New Delhi : Arjun Atwal, the first Indian golfer to win on the European Tour and also the first to play on the US Tour, is hoping a return to the Indian soil will see him recover the form that made him one of the most exciting golfers from Asia at the start of this decade.

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It has been a long time since Atwal teed off in a tournament in India, Asia or for that even on European Tour. But next month Atwal will be seen in action in the Indian capital not once but twice, and maybe even more than that.

“It will be great to come back and play in India. I am looking forward to that,” said Atwal. “Since 2004 I have been concentrating on US Tour, but last year was not too good for me.”

Before embarking on the Nationwide Tour in March, Atwal plans to play on the Asian and European Tours this year to get back to his form. The Nationwide Tour goes to Latin America, New Zealand and Australia in January and February before kicking off its US leg in March.

After the Indian Masters, Atwal will also tee up at the $ 2.5 million Johnnie Walker Classic, in late February at the DLF Golf and Country Club. In between the two big co-sanctioned events Atwal may also play an as-yet unconfirmed Asian Tour event in India and also Indonesia.

Atwal is hoping that a few big events on Asian and European Tours will get him back in rhythm. “The events in India are big with big purses and the fields are very strong and I am hoping I will be able to get back my game here,” he added.

The 34-year-old Atwal, who has been playing his trade on the US Tour for the last four years, last played in India at the Hero Honda Indian Open in 2005 where he finished tied 11th at the Delhi Golf Club.

Next month Atwal returns to the Delhi Golf Club for the EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters, for which he has received a sponsor’s invite. The EMAAR-MGF Indian Masters, scheduled Feb 7 to 10, is the first tournament to be co-sanctioned by the European Tour in India. It is also co-sanctioned by the Asian and Indian Tours.

In the last two years, Atwal has played only once in Asia – the HSBC Champions in 2006. In fact that has also been his only appearance on European Tour in last two years.

The year 2007 was an eminently forgettable one for Atwal, who barely stayed in the top-60 of the Nationwide Tour, the second rung tour in US. On the main US PGA Tour, he made the cut in only six of the 12 starts and finished 210th.

His best came in 2005, when he made 16 of the 17 cuts in US, he came inside top-150 in the world, but has since then dropped to 260 at the end of 2006 and then 538 at the end of 2007. Currently he is 541st.

A big hit with the Indian crowds, Atwal has won three times in India – once at the Indian Open in 1998 and twice at the Hero Honda Masters in 2000 and 2003.

Atwal was also the first Indian to win on the European Tour, when he won the 2002 Singapore Masters and the following year he won again on European Tour at the Malaysian Open. Both events were co-sanctioned with the Asian Tours. He has four other wins on Asian Tour. He also topped the Asian Tour Order of merit in 2003.