St Simons Island (USA): Pushed into a do-or-die situation, Indian golfer Arjun Atwal carded his second best-ever round on the PGA Tour -- a seven-under 63 -- to grab the sole lead at the midway stage of the McGladrey Classic here.
Atwal, whose two-year exemption following the win at Wyndham Championship in 2010 runs out at the end of this year, is at 175 on the Money List. He is staring at the prospect of missing out the card for next year unless he wins or finishes in top-two this week.
Close on Atwal`s heels was the American Ryder Cup captain, Davis Love III. Atwal was at 10-under 130, and Love was one behind.
After a three-under first round, he opened the second round at the Sea Island Golf Club with three straight birdies and took the outright lead with a wedge into five feet on the fifth hole, his 14th of the round.
"It feels great. I don`t even know how many (birdie) I made. I figured I`d count them up at the end of the round. I`m in a desperate situation. I got no choice to either win or finish in the top two I think my caddie figured out. So I just gotta grind out," said Atwal.
"After those missed cuts at the start of the year, I made a lot of cuts, too, in the middle of the year. Just didn`t have any decent finishes in any of the tournaments. So I just have to get a decent weekend in and see what happens."
Reflecting on his round, he said, "It was solid today. Started with three in a row, and then yeah, just kept going. I felt really calm out there, and putter is starting to work. That was the missing link in the last few tournaments that I played. Not last week, but before the FedExCup."
"I think they did a good job setting it up because they knew it was going to be windy. You can do that because the greens are soft. If the greens are firm and they did that, then it would be tough. But I think it was pretty fair," Atwal said.
Atwal has adjusted his putting stroke and said it has worked well for him.
"I just made a technical little adjustment. My hands were getting really low, and I came out here, you know, on Tuesday and I didn`t feel right. Didn`t feel right, so I kept lifting them up, lifting them up, and now I feel like I`m feeling good over it again. That`s usually been the strength of my game is my putting.
Atwal was bogey free on first day and on the second he had eight birdies and one bogey on the 14th. He started on the 10th with three birdies in a row and then bogeyed the 14th.
He birdied the 17th and on the second nine, he birdied first and second and again had twin birdies on fourth and fifth.
Atwal has only two tournaments left to finish in the top 125 of the Money List.
Atwal has struggled this season with a bad back early in the year, missing the cut in seven straight tournaments, one of them while playing in the same group with Tiger Woods at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Atwal`s left knee is acting up now and he expects to have tests on it at the end of the year. Right now his focus is on getting a card for next year.
In 2010, Atwal showed up at the Wyndham Championships after coming through the Monday qualifying in Greensboro, N.C.
He then shot a 61 on way to his lone PGA TOUR victory. Earlier on the Web.Com Tour he won late in the season to finish in the top 25 and earn back his card.
This is only the third time Atwal has held at least a share of the second-round lead. The last time he did so was at the 2005 Zurich Classic of New Orleans where he ended fifth and then in 2010 when he won the Wyndham Championship.
At the McGladrey Classic, Atwal missed the cut in 2011 and in 2010, he was tied third, so he has happy memories of the event.
The cut came at one-under 209, meaning all 88 players were within nine shots of the lead.
There has been very little wind along the Georgia coast, and while the weather has been mild and dry, enough rain has fallen in the early morning hours that the greens remained soft. In such good conditions the scores were excellent.
Chad Campbell, who hit all 18 greens in regulation, was among those at seven-under 133, while Vijay Singh (68) and Jason Day (67) were four shots behind.
First Published: Saturday, October 20, 2012, 10:15