Count Tiger Woods among the fans who were keeping a close eye on the proceedings in Dubai.
“Shoot 2 under a side; shoot 68 and you should be good,” Woods said in the message, according to Gulf News.
“He was wrong,” joked Atwal.
Indeed, the 41-year-old former Indian No. 1 needed a final-round 66 and a little help from Korean teen Jeung-hun Wang to win by a shot and snap a four-year winless drought. He was playing on his fifth consecutive sponsor exemption.
Atwal and Woods were frequent practice-round partners when Atwal was on the PGA Tour full-time. He won once on Tour, in 2010, but in recent years he’s battled nagging injuries and a slumping game. He said Sunday that he recently considered giving up the game, but Woods has been something of an inspiration for him.
“Going through his two years of struggle, he’s always been nothing but positive,” Atwal told reporters. “I’ve spent some time with him, and he’s always guided me on the right way I should go with my game or my health, and how to go about rehabbing …
“There’s very few friends in the world that will be there for you when you need them the most, and he’s one of them. And I’m there for him as well.”
Woods touched on his relationship with Atwal during a press conference at the Hero World Challenge earlier this month. Woods has entered into a multi-year sponsorship agreement with Hero, the India-based company that bills itself as the largest manufacturer of two-wheelers.
“Arjun was supposed to be here to play,” Woods said. “Unfortunately – actually, fortunately, he’s in some Asian events and playing over there. We talked at length about it, and I’m excited for him. He’s playing over there and trying to get his game back and trying to get back out here on Tour.
“Arjun and I have been fantastic friends, and the people that he’s introduced me to from India that came over here besides his family, they couldn’t have been nicer.”