GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Many players came to the Wyndham Championship for a push into the PGA Tour’s playoffs.
Not Arjun Atwal. He was playing for his spot on tour.
Atwal won by a stroke Sunday at Sedgefield Country Club, becoming the first Monday qualifier to win on the tour in 24 years.
After leading or sharing the lead after each of the first three rounds, Atwal shot a 3-under 67 in the final round. He finished at 20-under 260 and earned $918,000 – or, more than double the amount he previously earned this year, the reason why his future on tour had been in jeopardy.
“I told my caddie, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose this week. Just go out there and try and win it,'” Atwal said. “Guys are going to be out there trying to secure their FedEx Cup spots or whatever. We’ve got nothing. I don’t have a card. I don’t have anything. Just go out there and free-wheel it, and that’s what I did this week.”
He’s the first Indian-born player to win on tour and the first to win both the qualifier and the tournament that follows since Fred Wadsworth at the 1986 Southern Open.
David Toms (64) was 19 under. John Mallinger and Michael Sim shot 62s to match John Rollins (65) and Justin Leonard (65) at 18 under.
For a few dizzying moments late in a low-scoring day, seven players shared the lead at 18 under.
Atwal, who carried a three-stroke lead into the final round, was at 19 under for most of the day but bogeyed the par-3 12th a few minutes before Lucas Glover bogeyed 14 and Toms, Rollins and Leonard all birdied No. 16.
“It just kept changing,” Atwal said. “Everybody’s tied for the lead at a certain point.”
Atwal reclaimed the lead with a birdie on No. 14, Leonard birdied No. 17 and Toms birdied No. 18 to join them at 19 under. Leonard dropped back a stroke after running into trouble on 18, while Atwal still had three holes to play – giving him more than enough chances to settle things himself.
Atwal made his move on the par-3 16th, plopping his tee shot 6 feet from the flagstick and sinking his birdie putt to move to 20 under. He followed that with consecutive pars, sinking a 7-foot putt on No. 18 before dropping his putter and extending his arms upward in jubilation after closing out his first tour victory.
“I was thinking about going to the (driving) range, but when he got to 20 under and they said he had a 15-footer on 17, I just went in the clubhouse and tried to cool off,” Toms said. “I was ready to go to the range, if need be, but good for (Atwal). I know it’s tough to get that first victory. … I’m sure that he was battling some nerves, and to pour it in from 6-8 feet on that last hole was pretty impressive.”
Glover (67) finished at 17 under, and Webb Simpson (63), Chris Riley (64), Scott Piercy (68) and second-round co-leader Brandt Snedeker (69) were one stroke behind him.
Atwal, who has won on the European, Asian and Nationwide tours, certainly has been through plenty during the past few years.
The player perhaps best known for his practice rounds with Tiger Woods is ineligible for the playoffs and lost his tour card last month because he was too low on the money list when his minor medical exemption ran out. That came after he said he returned too soon following weightlifting injuries to both shoulders.
Three years ago, a driver trying to race him down an Orlando street died in a crash. Atwal was cleared of any wrongdoing, although the yearlong investigation took an emotional toll.
Glover made five consecutive birdies, sinking four putts from 14 feet or beyond, to catch Atwal, then briefly had the lead all to himself with a birdie on No. 9 that put him at 20 under. That didn’t last long: He sent his drive on No. 10 into the rough and three-putted for bogey, and slipped out of contention after he was 3 over on the back nine.
“I didn’t make anything coming in,” Glover said. “Don’t win doing that.”
The Wyndham marked the last chance for players to pick up points for the playoffs that begin next week in New Jersey.
Michael Letzig, who arrived at Sedgefield at No. 125 on the points list, finished 14 under move to 118th place, solidifying his spot in The Barclays.
“The goal is to give myself another tournament to play,” he said. “I’m in, so (I’ll) see what happens.”
Others weren’t so fortunate. Mallinger started at No. 163 on the points list, but initially figured a final round that included six birdies and an eagle was good enough to propel him into next week. But when others joined him in a tie for third on the leaderboard, he slipped to 132nd place in the standings and finished roughly 40 points out of the playoff picture.
Jeff Quinney, who arrived at No. 127, only moved up one spot on the list and finished about 3 points shy of making the postseason field with his 12 under.
“I could have taken care of my own business today,” Quinney said.