Indian ace Arjun Atwal will feature at the US$1.5 million Hero Indian Open with renewed confidence after returning to the winner’s circle last month.

Atwal, India’s first PGA TOUR winner and 2003 Asian Tour number one, completed a career turnaround when he secured an emphatic victory in Dubai in December to end a frustrating four-year title drought.

The 41-year-old will now turn his attention towards his National Open which will be sanctioned by the Asian Tour and European Tour for the first time in its storied history at the Delhi Golf Club from February 19 to 22.

“Winning in Dubai, I think it’s maybe even a greater feeling (compared to his win at the 2010 Wydham Championship on the PGA TOUR) because of the way things went the last two years. I didn’t think I would play again or compete again.  Especially when I had the back and the hip injury, I couldn’t walk,” said Atwal.

The 1999 Indian Open winner will spearhead the local charge alongside Anirban Lahiri, who finished second on the Order of Merit last year, two-time Asian Tour winner Rashid Khan and S.S.P. Chowrasia, who has recorded two wins on the region’s premier Tour at the Delhi Golf Club.

Flamboyant Spaniard Miguel Angel Jimenez, a 21-time European Tour winner, will also feature in the 51st edition of the Hero Indian Open.

It was a challenging last few seasons for Atwal but he was able to bounce back thanks to the strong support from his family and close friend Tiger Woods.

“We’ve (Tiger) been there for each other.  It’s almost to the point where we’re like there are 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.  So you know, going through this two years of struggle, he’s always been nothing but positive,” said Atwal.

“My dad, my wife, everybody, my whole family has been really supportive of me.  Especially like the really dark days when I really didn’t think I could play anymore, they have never let me believe that, you know, I wouldn’t be playing,” he added.

The Hero Indian Open has been synonymous with the rise of golf in India, and has been at the forefront of unearthing some of the best golfing talents that the country has seen, including the likes of Atwal, Jeev Milkha Singh, Jyoti Randhawa, Shiv Kapur and Gaganjeet Bhullar.

It has also attracted an impressive array of international players in the past, with Ryder Cup stars Peter Hanson and Edoardo Molinari, Englishman James Morrison, two-time European Tour winner Richie Ramsay, Swedes Rikard Karlberg and Daniel Chopra, as well as victorious Ryder Cup Captain Paul McGinley all having played previously.

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