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Atwal beats defending champion Hedblom in Malaysian Open playoff

3/9/2008 - Golf

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- Arjun Atwal, the Indian player involved in a fatal car accident last year, won the Malaysian Open on Sunday, beating defending champion Peter Hedblom of Sweden with a par on the second hole of a playoff.

Atwal, also the 2003 winner at The Mines, birdied the 18th to force the playoff. He finished with an 8-under 64 to match Hedblom (71) at 18-under 270 on the Kota Permai course. Both players parred the first extra hole.

Atwal, a three-time European tour winner, hasn't been charged in the March 10, 2007, accident in Orlando, Fla., that killed fellow motorist John Park. Witnesses have said Atwal and Park were street racing, with the Florida Highway Patrol estimating Atwal was going 80 mph in a 45 mph zone just before Park's speeding car flipped.

"It is an amazing feeling," Atwal told reporters. "I don't
know how to put it into words. To come here and win this title
twice now is incredible.

"I didn't think I had a chance starting out and just relaxed
from the first hole. It was only on the 11th I felt I had a
chance. It is incredible."

Overnight leader Hedblom missed a chance to win outright
when his birdie putt on the 18th hung on the lip. He settled for
a 1-under 71.

Atwal, 34, needed only a par at the par-3 second extra
hole to win the first prize of $340,000 while his rival
three-putted.

The Malaysian Open is co-sanctioned by the European Tour and
the Asian Tour.

Both players struggled to par the first extra hole, the
par-5 18th, after Atwal found sand with his second shot and
Hedblom drove into the water.

"It was a good defense," said Hedblom. "You are never happy
when you lose and I thought I had a good chance to win. I am
proud of myself for the way I defended my title and the putts I
holed coming in."

Briton Simon Dyson carded a 3-under 69 on the final day
to share third place with Australian Kane Webber after his 65. Italian Francesco Molinari stood alone at 272 after his 65.

South African Charl Schwartzel, Indian Jyoti Randhawa,
Argentine Daniel Vancsik and Briton David Lynn tied for sixth at
15-under 273.

Ryder Cup player Darren Clarke, who moved into contention on
Saturday with a 67, settled for a tie for 10th with Sweden's
Johan Edfors after closing with 2-under 70.

Information from The Associated Press and Reuters was used in this report.