New Delhi: Having returned to the winner's circle last month after a frustrating four-year title drought, ace India golfer Arjun Atwal will feature in the USD 1.5 million Hero Indian Open with renewed confidence when the action begins here at the Delhi Golf Club from February 19-22.
Atwal, India's first PGA TOUR winner and 2003 Asian Tour number one, completed a turnaround when he secured an emphatic victory finally in Dubai in December last year.
The 41-year-old will now turn his attention towards the National Open, which will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the first time in its storied history.
"Winning in Dubai, I think it is maybe even a greater feeling (compared to the win at the 2010 Wydham Championship on the PGA TOUR) because of the way things went in the last two years. I didn't think I would play again or compete again. Especially when I had the back and the hip injury, I couldn't walk," said Atwal.
The 1999 Indian Open winner will spearhead the local charge alongside Anirban Lahiri, who finished second on the Order of Merit last year, two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid Khan and SSP Chowrasia, who has recorded two wins on the region's premier Tour at the Delhi Golf Club.
Flamboyant Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, a 21-time European Tour winner, will also feature in the 51st edition of the tournament.
It was a challenging last few seasons for Atwal but he was able to bounce back thanks to the strong support from his family and close friend, Tiger Woods.
"We've (Tiger) been there for each other. It's almost to the point where we're like there are very few friends in the world that will be there for you when you need them the most, and he's one of them. And I'm there for him, as well. So you know, going through this two years of struggle, he's always been nothing but positive," said Atwal.
"My dad, my wife, everybody, my whole family has been really supportive of me. Especially like the really dark days when I really didn't think I could play anymore, they have never let me believe that, you know, I wouldn't be playing," he revealed.
Indian Open has been synonymous with the rise of golf in India, and has been at the forefront of unearthing some of the best golfing talents that the country has seen, including the likes of Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar.
It has also attracted an impressive array of international players in the past, with Ryder Cup stars Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari, Englishman James Morrison, two-time European Tour winner Richie Ramsay, Swedes Rikard Karlberg and Daniel Chopra, as well as victorious Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley all having played previously.