Atwal shoots 68, lies 16th in Malaysia

Thursday, October 28, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - India’s Arjun Atwal enjoyed a return to one of his happy hunting grounds in Asia despite scrambling to an opening three-under-par 68 at the inaugural $6 million CIMB Asia Pacific Classic golf here Thursday. He was lying 16th and five off the lead.

Atwal, the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour with his victory at the Wyndham Championship in August, struggled with the effects of jetlag at the Mines Resort and Golf Club.

He shot five birdies against two bogeys in the first ever co-sanctioned tournament by the Asian Tour and PGA Tour but was happy to relive some happy memories of his 2003 Malaysian Open victory at the Mines.

American Ricky Barnes rekindled his love-affair with Malaysia by snatching the first round lead with a barnstorming eight-under-par 63. The 29-year-old, who won the Eisenhower Trophy with the US team here in 2002, produced a “stress free” round sprinkled with eight birdies at the Mines Resort and Golf Club.

Another American Ryan Moore shot a flawless 64 to lie one back while Koreas Charlie Wi, a seven-time Asian Tour winner and a regular now on the PGA Tour, shared third place with Englands Brian Davis and Swedens Carl Pettersson with identical 65s.

“Ive played well here before,” said Atwal, who also triumphed in the Malaysian Open in 2008. “I always enjoy it in Malaysia. Today I didnt enjoy as much. But its just the first round.

“My body is not reacting as it normally does because of the jetlag but I should be okay tomorrow. Im really happy I shot three under as I hit it awful.”

With a first trip to the Masters Tournament in the pipeline thanks to his breakthrough, Atwal knows that he does not need to scramble around stateside in search for starts from next year.

“The scheduling becomes easier. I dont have to think about which places Im going to play,” said Atwal, a former Asian Tour number one and region’s first million-dollar man.

“Ive played well this year. My scoring average was sixty nine point something which is fourth in America. I wasnt too surprised when I won.”

He credited his Australian coach Dale Lynch for helping him break through in America. “Hes been really good for me. I still have a long way to go to get the techniques all down but Im on the right path,” he said.

Atwal believes he can produce multiple victories on the PGA Tour and even win a Major.

“Im 37 now. Ive got a few good years left in me. I know the way my career has always been, its taken me a while to win on any Tour. It took me from 1995 to 1999 to win on the Asian Tour, four years. Same thing in Europe. With the PGA Tour win, the next time Im in contention, it becomes a lot easier. I dont see why I wont win multiple times.”

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