Monday, November 29, 1999

Atwal rides a roller-coaster round at US Open

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Pebble Beach, California, June 18 (IANS) Normal would be boring for Arjun Atwal. Playing in his first-ever US Open and that after coming through a sectional qualifier, the Indian had a roller coaster of a round with four birdies and eight bogeys in his eventful 75 that puts him on the edge as far as weekend action is concerned.After practising through the week with Tiger Woods, one of his best buddies, Atwal contended he played well, even though the scores did not reflect that. Interestingly, Tiger, who shot a 74 said the same, as did Phil Mickelson, who shot 75.K.J. Choi gave himself a shot at his first Major after shrugging off a terrible start. The Asian Tour honorary member was three over after two holes before bouncing back to shoot a one-under-par 70 to lie in tied fourth place, one shot behind co-leaders Shaun Micheel, the 2003 GA champion, Paul Casey and Brendon De Jonge.Atwal's four birdies were bettered by only seven others - two of them including Mike Weir had six each and five others had five birdies. Atwal and 21 others had four birdies.But Atwal also had eight bogeys that completely ruined his scorecard.While Atwal had three birdies in his front nine and one more on back nine - he birdied both the seventh and the 17th -- the two most picturesque par-threes in the game, neither Woods nor Mickelson had a birdie between them. He had three birdies and three bogeys in first seven holes.He started bogey-bogey on the first two holes. On the second he went into a bunker right in the middle of the fairway and paid the penalty. Then a birdie on third soothed him, but the lipout on fifth cost him another bogey.On the sixth, he was two-on and missed an eagle putt but got his birdie. Then dropped a perfect tee shot on the postage stamp seventh hole. He also sank the birdie confidently to be even par. Then bogeys on eighth, ninth, 12th and 14th saw him four-over. A par on the tough 17th was a big consolation as he rolled in a putt from the edge of the green. He got away with a bogey on 18th, as he preferred to 'take the medicine' and come out of a tough third shot.'I think I played well. I hit the irons well and was fine off the tee, too, but I did not get any breaks on the greens,' said Atwal. 'Normally during a round, at least one of two putts go your way and you get a break, but there was not a single one in my favour today.'Atwal had two lip-outs, a more than a few misses from inside eight feet for either birdie or par. 'I am disappointed as I could have come back with a 73, but I would say I am still in there,' said Atwal, who shot 48 and 37 for the two splits of that incredibly good-looking but heartless Pebble Beach course.Atwal found nine of the 14 fairs, seven of the 18 greens in regulation, but needed no less than 30 putts. 'That was the difference between a 75 and 72,' he said.'I think I played to the strategy we had planned,' added Atwal. 'The wind was a factor and the greens were tough. Snoring is going to be tough.'Hiroyuki Fujita of Japan also started well with a 72 while Korea's Y.E.Yang, Asia's first Major champion, battled to a 73 for a share of 29th position. Reigning Asian Tour number one Thongchai Jaidee of Thailand returned a 74 to lie alongside Korean teenager Noh Seung-yul, who is making his Major debut, and Fijian Vijay Singh, who is an Asian Tour honorary member.Choi, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour, was delighted to feature prominently on the leaderboard, especially with the way he started with a bogey and double bogey. But he rebounded strongly with three birdies to turn in even par before trading three more birdies against two late bogeys on his inward nineThe 19-year-old Noh, winner of the Maybank Malaysian Open in March when he beat Choi by one shot, enjoyed a solid start in his first Major event. He went out in 36 with one birdie and a bogey before dropping three more shots for a share of 47th place.Among other Asian Tour players were Sweden's Rikard Karlberg, winner of the SAIL Open in India, who shot a 77, and Australian Terry Pilkadaris and Welshman Rhys Davies, who ended the day on a 78.

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