Arjun Atwal, formerly of Clarke High School and Nassau Community College, has so far made the most of his sponsor's exemption to the AT&T National, hosted by his buddy Tiger Woods. Atwal shot 4 under par yesterday and was among the first-round leaders.

         To refresh your memory, here's the column I did about Arjun during the U.S. Open:


> Say what you will about Tiger Woods,
> but if you're Arjun Atwal, you say only that he is a world-class friend,
> when a friend was what he needed most. In the past six months, Atwal has
> had a chance to return the favor.
> He doesn't offer Woods advice about getting through a real rough spot,
> even though Atwal has more experience in that than he ever wanted. He just
> does what friends do, playing golf with Woods, taking his buddy's jibes
> and needling him right back.
> "We always just have fun, just kidding around," Atwal said after he played
> a practice round with his fellow Isleworth club member yesterday at Pebble
> Beach, in preparation for the U.S. Open tomorrow. "He is getting better
> every day," said Atwal, who plays daily with Woods at home.
> Atwal, who was born in India but had his formative years on Long Island,
> where he came of age as a golfer, never will forget that Woods stayed in
> his corner during the awful year from March 2007 to March 2008. Atwal does
> not like to talk about the incident that he knows will stay with him
> forever:
> He was driving his BMW home outside Orlando, Fla., from a practice round
> with Woods when he became involved in what the Florida Highway Patrol
> later classified as Case No. 07-OFF-025073. The police report said that
> Atwal and John Noah Park, the driver of a Mercedes, were both going at
> speeds in excess of 90 miles an hour. Park lost control of his car,
> careened off County Road 535 and was killed. Atwal has since said they
> were not drag racing; that he saw a car coming behind him and accelerated.
> The highway patrol recommended that Atwal should be charged with vehicular
> homicide. The state attorney, though, decided not to charge him, leaving
> Atwal free to resume the golf career that had taken shape at Clarke High
> School and Nassau Community College.
> Easier said than done. He never will forget Park and his family. But he
> had to move on. When he was putting his game back together, Woods
> encouraged him to add more physical training to his yoga practice and
> challenged him to a 72-hole match. Woods won, by a shot, but Atwal was on
> his way back to the PGA Tour. He later won the Malaysian Open and the
> Nationwide Tour's Chattanooga Classic.
> "Right from the first day, he just made me feel very comfortable around
> him. He has always been just a normal guy around me. Most of his friends
> will tell you the same thing," Atwal said.
> In the struggle for normalcy after Woods' sex scandal, Atwal said, "I'm
> 100 percent behind him."
> There is no comparing their situations and no discounting the tragedy
> involved with Atwal's. But if authorities say it's OK for someone to get
> on with his life, shouldn't the rest of us do the same?
> It is all right to feel good about Atwal's 64 at the HP Byron Nelson
> Classic recently. He is playing the PGA Tour on a medical exemption while
> coming off a 2009 shoulder injury. "I came back too early last year. I was
> sick of sitting at home, six months out or whatever. I came back too early
> and missed every cut out there," he said.
> It was fun yesterday to hear Atwal's father Bindi tell the old stories:
> The family bought a house on Long Island so Arjun's older brother Govind,
> who is hearing-impaired, could get the education he couldn't get in India.
> Atwal and his wife, Sona, have two sons. And he has the friendship of
> Tiger Woods.
> "There were times when you were worried about your future and all that
> stuff," Atwal said. "You just keep plugging along," said the golfer who is
> encouraging the world's No. 1 golfer to do the same.

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