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'I need to get more aggressive'

After a shaky debut on the USPGA Tour last year, Arjun Atwal has come back with a bang and secured a full Tour card for 2006, which he didn?t have in 2005.

india Updated: Nov 16, 2005 18:13 IST

From local tournaments at RCGC to the PGA Championship (one of the four Majors), what has caused this transformation?
There has been no transformation really. I was following the steps gradually, playing and winning a few tournaments in India, Asia and Europe. Then I went through the qualifying schools. It has been one gradual process and everything just fell in place. Difficult to point out what exactly got me going.

Do you realise that you have become a pioneer of sorts as far as golf in India is concerned?
No. Not right now at least. If people think that way it’s good but I really don’t think I am there right now. But if I win a few tournaments, then it will be different.

What gives you the belief that you can win a tournament on the USPGA Tour?
The near misses I guess... Actually, that’s all I live by, my belief. If I don’t believe that I can, I can’t win a tournament. It’s just the fact that I came so close this year, I think I can, that’s all I will say.

How have you changed as a player after spending two years at the highest level?
I’ve become a lot smarter, a little more intelligent on the golf course. I don’t take as many chances as I used to and I am not as aggressive as I used to be. It just comes by playing tournaments as you grow in experience.

To compete at the highest level, what is most important? Is it skill, confidence, love of the game or anything else?
You’ve got to be prepared. You can’t have confidence and not be prepared. So, I think no matter what people say, they are very confident or whatever, it’s how you prepare that counts. So, preparation is No. 1, for anything that you do in life. If you are not prepared you are not going to do well, no matter what it is.
Your first year on Tour wasn’t that good (in the 30 tournaments, he made the cut in 12 with just one top-10 finish for a total earning of $486,052).

How did you cope with it?
Golf for the first time in my life had become a non-factor because my wife was expecting a baby in America and at that time I didn’t really care whether I was playing well or not. Once we had the son I played okay. I had a decent finish to the year and I was not too disappointed.

And this year, you have not finished well after doing well in the first two rounds in quite a few events (of the 17 tournaments he played, Atwal’s scores in the third and fourth rounds have been worse than the first two rounds on 12 occasions). What’s going wrong?
This year, either the third round has gone bad or the fourth one. I can’t really pinpoint why. I think I need to get a little more aggressive on the weekends because that’s what they do on the PGA Tour. And I am still playing my golf where I’m trying to just make par. I need to get more aggressive, to do the opposite of what I’ve been doing.

When people talk about a new generation of Indian sportsmen they mostly refer to Sania Mirza or Narain Karthikeyan. Do you feel ignored at times?
Not quite because I am not doing it for people to recognise me. I am doing it for myself. The better I do the more recognition I will get, so it doesn’t really bother me.

And how special is Tiger Woods?
Well, he’s the No. 1 player in the world and there is no one like him. And there is no one who’s going to be like him either. It’s unbelievable. It’s great to be playing in the same time with him.

I’m sure people said the same thing about (Jack) Nicklaus when they were playing against him. But we are watching someone who is a phenomenon. It’s good to see and good to be competing against.

First Published: Nov 05, 2005 18:39 IST