Dubai Open Rd 4 - What the champion said

Sun 21 Dec 2014

Dubai Open Rd 4 - What the champion said

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Arjun, inaugural DUBAi Open champion, it must feel really nice.
ARJUN ATWAL:  It hasn't sunk in yet actually, Chuah.  Even when I made that putt on the last hole, it was just like, oh, man, just more relief than anything else that the day is over.  Because I was feeling it.  I was feeling a little bit my nerves and all that stuff but it was a gift today.  I haven't won a tournament like this where someone has actually gifted it to me.  I got lucky.
Start of the day, tied for the lead, three shots back at the back nine, what was going through your mind in the back nine and what did you try to do at that time?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Well, Wang made some really good putts.  I mean, every time I hit it inside and he would knock one in, and it almost became like match play and I was like, I need to get out of this mode where, you know, it was like I need to do my own thing. And then on the back nine, I started with that par 5 where I laid up, and I think I made three birdies in a row and that's where I started to be myself, play my own game and let whatever happened, happen.
On 18, dramatic turn of events.
ARJUN ATWAL:  Actually, 17 is where he missed    he 3 putted and missed a three footer for par.
18 again, he leaked it out right.  I left it in the exact spot I wanted to on the front part of the green.  If it was on, it would be an easy 2 putt.  It was an easy chip up from there.
Q.  How were you feeling about Wang missed?  Were you feeling like you lost the tournament there?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Yes.  Because I hit it in the desert left, and I had an impossible shot and I hit it to like six feet or seven feet.  I mean, I surprised myself from there.  I told myself that I need to make this to stay in it, and I missed it and I thought, you know, it's over.  And he did what he did and I was back in it.
Q.  In the last two or three years; how important is this win for your career?  How do you rate this win, given what you have gone through and given the way you have achieved it today?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Good question.
Q.  Is the feeling better?
ARJUN ATWAL:  It's as good.  It's actually as good.  I can't believe that I'm saying that, comparing it to my lifetime goal was to win on the PGA TOUR.  To have won today, which I think it's maybe even a greater feeling today.  Because the way things went the last two years, I didn't think I would play again or compete again.  Especially when I had the back injury and the hip injury, I couldn't walk.  So it was really like, you know, debilitating.  So, yeah, it's something else right now.
Q.  And is it 100 per cent?
ARJUN ATWAL:  It's much better.  It's on and off.  I have a couple of issues which is not as bad as    I can manage it.  I've just got to stay on top of it in the gym or in my yoga and all that stuff.  Age is something that it's not going to spare anybody, so that's the way it is.
Q.  Do you feel for Wang in the way that he fell apart?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Absolutely.  And I told him on the 18th green, I said I felt bad for him, but he's going to win a lot.  He's only 19.  First of all, he's old enough to be my son.  But he is a really talented golfer.  He's got the whole    all the tools in the game, and he's only 19.  So he's going to win a lot. The more times he puts himself in this type of position, he'll handle it better.  Next time he comes out on 18, he just 3 putted, he knows he's got the whole green on the left.  He can hit it up there and get up and down and win the tournament.
Q.  Just about a week or two ago when Tiger was hosting a tournament, we all know about your friendship with Tiger, and he mentioned during the press conference that he wished you were there with him during that tournament; and then he said, actually, unfortunately, he's not here.  And then he said, actually fortunately he's not here because he's playing in Asia?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Yeah, yeah.
Q.  When you have a friendship with somebody like that, what do you get from that friendship in this entire stretch of golf when you try to get back to your golf and the way that you can play; how important has that been, an advisor, somebody like him?
ARJUN ATWAL:  You know, we've become like really, really close.  Him going through his stuff and me struggling the last couple of years, we've been there for each other.  It's almost to the point where we're like    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.  So you know, going through this two years of struggle, he's always been nothing but positive.  I've spent some time with him in Jupiter and all that stuff, and he's always guided me the right way of which way I should go with my game or how the health is feeling, how to go about rehabbing stuff and all that stuff. He's been    in fact, today he texted me in the morning that    he told me, "Shoot 2 under a side; shoot 68 and you should be good."  He was wrong (laughter).  He's always encouraging me and we're really close friends.
Q.  2015, now you have a playing privilege secured on the Asian Tour.  That must be quite a welcome change itself?
ARJUN ATWAL:  Yeah, all these tournaments I played on invites this year.  This is my fifth invite in a row actually.  I'm thankful to all the sponsors that have given me invites.  Thank God I don't have to do that again.  I never thought that the Asian Tour, I would be asking for invites.  Because I was always in the Top 20 in the career Money List, but I had not played enough so I was out of it.
It's a good bonus to have where I don't have to call people and ask for invites.
Q.  This is the first tournament that's been played on this course.  What would you say about the course and the conditions?  Everybody was complaining about the wind the first two days.
ARJUN ATWAL:  I think the Asian Tour referees, the officials set it up really well, really fair.  If they wanted, this golf course could have played brutally hard.  They moved a bunch of the tees up.  They didn't cut the greens to a speed where they would be impossible to putt, because there's a lot of slope and undulations on these greens.
I think it was a really fair setup.  If the wind had blown, I don't think 16 under or whatever would have won    I don't even know what I shot, 16 or 17?  (Laughter) I don't know, whatever.  If they played the tees back and they cut the greens down, winning score would have been like 5  or 6 under par.
Q.  What's the plan for 2015 now?
ARJUN ATWAL:  I don't have any plans yet.  I really don't.  You know, I want to still play on the PGA TOUR.  That's always my    because I live there now.  My kids are going to school there.  If my game gets good enough, obviously I'm going to try and give it a go over there. But also, I'm going to play, you know, the Asian Tour next year.
Q.  I've seen you play for so many years, and I know the intensity that you bring to your game, but on the ninth green, despite being behind Wang at that point, there was still    you looked at your kids, you smiled, gave them a hug.  That seems like a very different kind of Arjun Atwal.
ARJUN ATWAL:  Yeah, I guess you get older, right, and everything gets in perspective. I didn't really expect much today.  You know, I don't know, I didn't really think about winning or anything.  Like the old me would have been just about one thing:  Just got to go out there and win and that's it.  Like you've seen me; would I lose tournaments because I wanted it so bad. Today was different.  I don't know how to explain it.  It was the first time I've been in contention of this type and it worked out, so that's good
Q.  This the first DUBAi Open; looking at the event as a whole, what do you think needs to be done for next year?
ARJUN ATWAL:  I have no complaints.  This is one of the best run Asian Tour events I've ever been to, ever.  Right from organizing player transport to player dining to the practise facility, it's fantastic.  The golf course is in great shape, and everybody is so nice in the clubhouse.  It was absolutely    it gets my vote for No. 1.
Q.  This is a question that might be asked to you on a different occasion.  But can you just tell us the role of your family?  Your father was always there for you, and today, as well, he was there.  The role of the family especially these last couple of years.
ARJUN ATWAL:  Well, you know them.  You've spent time with them.  Yeah, it's been    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.  I could come back to India and work with my dad and it would be all right, but it's been good.  They have been really supportive.