Atwal shines bright in moderate year for Indian golf

New Delhi: 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
nagging 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 a resurgence of sorts for the Orlando-based
golfer, who had struggled with injuries over the past couple
of years and had 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.

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, Atwal ended the
year as the highest-ranked Indian in Asia at 124th, which put
him seventh on the regional list.

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 due to the nagging problem due to which he skipped 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 world rankings,
he is down to 168th and has been forced to cut down on the
number of tournaments he played to avoid burnout.

"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 Jeev has
been given a Minor Medical Extension in 2011.

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
USD 366,732 and get elevated to the Major Medical category.

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 good of the
conditions as Swede rookie Rikard Karlberg lifted the trophy
even though a little-known Manav Jaini did come close to
winning the USD 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.

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