April 6: India’s Arjun Atwal is counting on tips from Tiger Woods and the experience of winning on four international Tours to drive him to a strong showing in his Masters Tournament debut starting on Thursday.
The former Asian Tour number one is only the second Indian after Jeev Milkha Singh to compete at Augusta National Golf Club and he is aiming to make it a memorable first visit.
“I have been fortunate to win on the Asian, European, Nationwide and PGA Tours. Winning at all of those levels have allowed me to know that I can compete with the best players in the world at any tournament,” said Atwal.
He earned his exemption into the year’s opening Major through his success at the Wyndham Championship last year, making him India’s first champion on the PGA Tour.
Atwal, who has seven wins on the Asian Tour, said his ultimate ambition was to secure a Major victory. “By winning on the PGA Tour, it was just one goal that I had accomplished since starting in professional golf. I think by winning on the PGA Tour it has raised my confidence that I can win more and win a Major. I don't think that any one Major suits my game best, but if I putt well here I feel I can contend,” said Atwal.
His preparation was given a boost when he and Woods, a four-time Masters champion, played a practice round at Augusta National several weeks ago. “To get to play with any past champion is a huge advantage, especially when it is Tiger,” said the Indian.
“He showed me some of the lines off of tees and where to miss it around the greens. Learning those little things can add up to several shots over the week at the Masters.”
It was certainly a thrill when Atwal drove down Magnolia Lane for the first time during the Masters Tournament week and he reflected on his journey which started out on the Asian Tour in 1995.
“Without my career on the Asian Tour and the success that I have achieved there, I could not be where I am today,” said the 38-year-old.
“There are so many great players who have competed and still compete on the Asian Tour and I think that it will only continue to get better. It is hard for players to play every event they would like to play throughout the year, but I want to continue to support the Asian Tour and play events when my schedule allows me to play over there.”
He marveled at Augusta National, saying the fabled venue was like a dream. But to succeed at the Masters, Atwal knows he must treat it as any other event when the first shot is struck on Thursday.
“The whole place is like a dream. I had a chance to visit Augusta National for a couple of days following Bay Hill. That was huge in getting past the initial shock of Augusta National. It is like another world when you turn through the front gate,” said Atwal.
“I would say that those days of practice certainly helped me to be more comfortable here this week. This is a special tournament and to have my friends and family here this week makes it even more special to me.
“The Masters is unlike any other event in so many ways. Since it's the only Major played at the same course every year it has had so many great moments. As a player, I do think that it is just like any other tournament that I play. All of the other factors that make the Masters so unique are great, but in the end it is a golf tournament just like any other one.”
Photo - Asian Tour
Asian Tour GolfGreedy.com