AKRON, OHIO—Arjun Atwal, the former Long Islander, had a solid first round in the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational: 2 under par. Only he knows how close he came to having a terrific round.
Atwal, the native of India who went to Clarke High School and Nassau Community College, made five birdies on the back nine, including three in a row on 10, 11 and 12 with putts of two feet, two feet and 10 feet. His only problem was that he couldn’t consistently keep his drives from going left.
“My driver is the only club in my bag right now that’s bothering me. If I could get that going a little bit, just a little bit, I could be in contention so easy right now it’s a joke. The whole year, my driver has been bothering me. The thing is, I’m on the range and I hit it fine, then I get on the golf course and it will start going left on me. Then the fear of the left ball, I hit it right. I’m trying to fix that. I know it’s close. Once that gets sorted out, especially on a golf course like this… my irons are super right now,” he said after he played with Rory Sabbatini, who bogeyed 18 to finish 4 under.
Sabbatini was a good partner, contrary to his reputation (and some of his previous actions). He openly rooted for Atwal’s drives to find the fairway and not the rough, he complimented Atwal’s good shots and joked with him. That was interesting in that Sabbatini has had times when he did not see eye-to-eye with Tiger Woods, who is one of Atwal’s close friends and his usual practice partner.
Atwal, in fact, said that a putting tip from Woods allowed him to stay under par in the first round. Not only did Atwal make birdie putts, he made some healthy par putts, such as a five-footer on No. 18 (he hit way left off the tee, hit a hybrid around trees, over stands and corporate boxes, then chipped up).
“He knows my putting and I know the basics of his putting very well. Any time we can’t tell, we’ll look at each other,” Atwal said of Woods. “He hadn’t seen me in a while, since the players. I told him I’d been doing a certain thing wrong with my putting, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve been playing week after week and it just kind of creeps in. He has seen me where I am at a good position where I’m putting well and he got me back to that. I putted great today.”
Atwal added of Woods, making his return after 12 weeks off because of injuries, “He’s hitting it really, really well. But he hasn’t played since the Masters—you can’t count The Players—so since April, he hasn’t played. I just hope he can get off to a decent start, to where his mind gets to knowing how he can play. Then it’s going to be fun to watch.”