Greensboro: Golfer Arjun Atwal, who lost his card barely a few weeks ago and then had to play the qualifiers to get into the tournament, is three shots clear of the field as he seeks his maiden PGA Tour title at the Wyndham Championship.
A win will make Atwal the first Indian ever to win on the PGA Tour. Daniel Chopra, who is half Indian - his mother is Swedish and he holds a Swedish passport - has won twice before.
A win at Wyndham will also give Atwal full status for the next two years, though he will sit out for the FedEx Cup.
Atwal has said his main goal this week was to move closer to securing his tour card for 2011. He lost the card last month because he was too low on the money list when his minor medical exemption ran out. That came after he returned too soon following injuries while lifting weights in the gym.
At the Sedgefield Country Club, Atwal, a regular practice partner and a close buddy of Tiger Woods, fired a third round of five-under 65 to reach 17-under 193 after having either led or shared the lead at the end of each first three rounds. ‘I’m not your typical Monday qualifier,’ Atwal said with a laugh.
Atwal’s friend and the other Indian in the field, Jeev Milkha Singh shot a 68 and was tied 18th, down from seventh after two rounds. Jeev was 10-under for three rounds with cards of 64, 68 and 68. This is the first time ever that two Indians have been in the top-10 - Atwal shared the lead and Jeev as tied seventh - after two rounds and it is also the first time two Indians have been in top-20 after three rounds.
Atwal’s best PGA Tour finish is a tied second at the 2005 BellSouth Classic, where he lost in a five-man playoff to Phil Mickelson. Atwal is playing in his 120th PGA event. He has 51 starts on the Nationwide Tour.
Scott McCarron closed his 63 with four consecutive birdies and was at 14 under along with Scott Piercy (64) and Lucas Glover (67). Will MacKenzie (65), Garrett Willis (65), David Toms (65), Justin Leonard (66), John Rollins (68) and second-round co-leader Brandt Snedeker (69) were at 13 under. Kevin Na matched the tournament record with a 61 in the morning to reach 12 under.
Atwal, 37, has never won on the PGA Tour, but has been successful on the European, Asian and Nationwide tours. And he could now become the first Monday qualifier to win the tournament since Fred Wadsworth at the 1986 Southern Open.
‘I’ve never won on the PGA Tour, but I’ve won on almost every other tour I’ve played on,’ Atwal said. ‘And I don’t see why it’s going to be different trying to win a tournament here. If I’m hitting it well, and I’m playing well, I don’t see why I can’t win.’
He’s ineligible for the playoffs, but kept himself in prime position. He had a two-stroke lead after one round and joined Snedeker as co-leaders after day two.
Three times Atwal had back-to-back birdies during the third round and he almost landed an eagle on No. 15 as the putt stopped at the edge of the cup.
Snedeker, the 2007 Wyndham winner - ran into trouble on that par 5, where he went into the water.