Six months after PGA Tour pro Arjun Atwal was involved in a high-speed auto incident near Orlando that resulted in the death of John Noah Park, 48, of Windemere, the Florida Highway Patrol is nearing completion of its investigation and may forward a final report including recommended charges to the state attorney's office as soon as this week.
An FHP spokesman confirmed that investigators have determined that Atwal was driving at "excessive speed," which it defines as 20 mph or more over the speed limit, and that a charge of vehicular homicide remains a possibility.
The inquiry stalled for several months while the FHP attempted to retrieve information from the black box in Atwal's 2006 BMW M6, but it was unable to connect with the right personnel through BMW in Germany despite repeated attempts. (A spokesman for BMW in the U.S. had no knowledge of the situation and referred SI to a counterpart in Germany, who had not responded to questions as of press time.)
On Sept. 7 FHP said it was moving forward "the old-fashioned way," examining such factors as skid marks and car damage to complete their investigation. The state attorney is not obliged to follow the recommendations of the FHP.
After the accident, on March 10, eyewitnesses claimed that Atwal's car and Park's Mercedes CLS 55 AMG were racing along a curving road not far from Disney World when both drivers lost control. Atwal skidded to a stop on the shoulder, but Park's car went off the road and hit a tree. Atwal has denied that the men were racing.
Since the accident he has appeared in six Tour events, making the cut twice and earning $49,651, and in 12 Nationwide tour events, where he's made 10 cuts and collected $98,741.
• Anytime you plan a golf tournament, you hope it doesn't rain. And if it does rain, you hope there isn't a major international event scheduled for the following week.
The LPGA's inaugural NW Arkansas Championship struck out on both counts last week. By last Saturday evening lengthy rain delays meant that 32 players were still waiting to finish their first round, and officials announced that the event would be reduced to 18 holes, the first time that's happened at an LPGA tournament.
As it turned out, the weather was fine on Sunday and passable on Monday so did the LPGA jump the gun, perhaps influenced by the 11 Solheim Cup players in the field who were due in Sweden on Tuesday? Maybe not. The Sunday and Monday forecasts called for more rain, and LPGA officials say that was their only consideration.
The big loser was the winner, Stacy Lewis. The Arkansas senior shot a first-round 65 to earn first place. But because the tournament was deemed unofficial, Lewis was not awarded the three-year LPGA exemption that normally goes to the victor. Said a disappointed Lewis, "It's one good round of golf, and that's really all you can take from it."