India’s Arjun Atwal, who is perhaps best known for his close friendship with Tiger Woods, captured the Asian Tour’s season-ending Dubai Open following a dramatic finish at The Els Course in Dubai Sports City.
Heading into the par-5 18th, Atwal trailed 19-year-old South Korean player Wang Jeung-hun by a stroke. Atwal carded a birdie, while nerves got to Wang, leading to a bogey. He fired a six-under 66, 16-under total, on the way to his win.
Atwal credited his pal Tiger for sending him an encouraging text the night before, according to gulfnews.com.
“We’ve become really close,” he said. “What with him going through his stuff and me struggling the last couple of years, we’ve been there for each other.
“There’s 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.
“Going through his two years of struggle, he’s always been nothing but positive. I’ve spent some time with him, and he’s always guided me on the right way I should go with my game or my health, and how to go about rehabbing.
“In fact he texted me this [Sunday] morning and told me: ‘Shoot two under a side; shoot 68 and you should be good,’ he was wrong,” joked Atwal. “He’s always encouraging me and we’re really close friends.”
Nice of Tiger to keep track of his friend’s progress at the Dubai Open (of all events).
Atwal and Woods were once neighbors in the Isleworth community near Orlando, Florida. When they play in the same tournaments, they often are seen scouting the course together in practice rounds. They’ve also played in the same foursome during the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
It was the 41-year-old’s first win since the PGA Tour’s 2010 Wyndham Championship and he has not played full-time on the Tour since 2012. Needless to say, this was a particularly memorable victory.
“This one feels really special,” Atwal said. “I’ve gone through some really tough times the last few years with injuries and losing my card on the PGA Tour and all that stuff. It was at a point where I almost wanted to quit. Thanks to a few of my family and friends, I didn’t, and here we are.”