Arjun Atwal ended a four-year title drought by winning the inaugural Dubai Open by one stroke on Sunday after South Korean teenager Wang Jeung-hun bogeyed the final hole.
Atwal, a former Asian Tour number one, trailed by one heading to the par five 18th at the Els Club, but emerged victorious with a closing birdie while a nervous Wang posted a six following a wayward second shot which ended in a bush.
The 41-year-old, one of the four overnight leaders at the final tournament of the Asian Tour season, ended the day of high drama by signing off with a six-under-par 66 and a winning total of 16-under-par 2727 while Wang carded for a 67.
“This one feels really special,” beamed Atwal, whose last victory came at the 2010 Wyndham Championship on the PGA Tour.
“I think the last time I won on the Asian Tour was 2008 (Maybank Malaysian Open). I’ve gone through some really tough times the last few years with injuries and losing my card on the PGA Tour. 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.”
After opening his week with a 73, Atwal said his putting clicked and that he needed only 27, 24 and 25 putts over the last three rounds after taking 34 strokes on Day One. “I just found a little something in my putting. I adjusted to something that I used to do because the greens in Asia are a little bit slower than the ones I’m used to on the PGA Tour. Just making that adjustment got me rolling the ball a little bit better, so I made some putts,” he said.
Atwal paid tribute to Wang, who looked in control of the final round before dropping those late bogeys. “It was like just more relief than anything else that the day is over. I was feeling a little bit with my nerves 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,” said Atwal.
“He’s a great young player. I couldn’t believe he’s only 19. He’s old enough to be my son. It’s a tough loss for him but I’m sure he’s going to win a lot,” added Atwal, who has played on sponsors’ invitations in his last five tournaments on the Asian Tour.