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Old 03-11-2007, 06:35 PM   #1
Rice & Gravy
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Atwal under investigation
Police: Golfer appeared to be part of fatal street race

PGA Tour player Arjun Atwal is under investigation after police said what appeared to be a high-speed street race ended in a fatal crash near Orlando, Fla.

Atwal was not injured in the accident Saturday at 5:30 p.m. The other driver, John Noah Park, 48, died at a local hospital, Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Kim Miller said Sunday.

No charges have been filed against Atwal, the first player from India on the PGA Tour.

"At a minimum, he is facing a charge of engaging in a street race," Miller said. "We have to see if this crash rises to the level of any other charges."

Atwal's wife, Ritika, answered the phone at their Windermere home Sunday. She said her husband wasn't home and declined to talk about the crash. PGA Tour spokesman Ty Votaw said: "Until we learn more, we don't have any comment at this time."

PGA Tour player Daniel Chopra, who grew up with Atwal in India, said reports his longtime friend was racing sounded exaggerated. He had not spoken to Atwal.

"I think it's even more important that the media be a little careful in jumping to conclusions and not make him out to be a villain. Accidents happen," Chopra said. "You have some motorists that came out and made statements saying that, 'Oh, they were racing.' But you have some old people driving 45 mph, and if you do 60, they might seem like, 'Oh, my God, it's a rocket ship.' It's all a matter of perspective. We'll have to find out what happens. I don't think it's as serious as maybe the first report."

Miller said troopers will use skid marks and other evidence to reconstruct the crash before filing any charges. The investigation could take up to two months.

"Witnesses tell us they were engaged in a street race," Miller said. "They estimated speeds at or about 100 mph. Park's vehicle hit a tree and basically just shattered. Part of the axle was found in the tree. It was a very violent crash."

The 33-year-old golfer and Park lost control on a curve on a suburban road that is a popular shortcut between the Disney resorts and upscale communities west of Orlando.

Atwal's 2006 BMW spun and came to rest on the shoulder. Park's Mercedes slammed into a tree. The cars did not collide, Miller said.

Chopra said his wife talked to Atwal's wife on Sunday.

"Obviously, it was horrible it happened," Chopra said. "I hope people won't think he's somebody who caused the accident. He's a good driver. It was shocking."

Atwal was the first Indian-born player to win on the European tour when he captured the 2002 Caltex Singapore Masters by five shots. He went to PGA Tour qualifying school a year later and earned his card.

He nearly won a PGA Tour event two years ago. He was in Bali on his honeymoon in March 2005 when his parents warned him of impending storms, so he and his wife headed for their Florida home. Because the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta began late that week, he got into the tournament and wound up in a five-man playoff. Atwal was eliminated on the first extra hole of the tournament, won by Phil Mickelson.

He struggled last year and finished 140th on the PGA Tour money list, failing to keep full-exempt status on the PGA Tour. Atwal has played only three times this year, finishing in a tie for 36th at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and missing the cut the last two weeks in Mexico and the Honda Classic.

Atwal was not eligible to play again until the Houston Open at the end of the month.
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Old 03-11-2007, 06:52 PM   #2
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Old 03-11-2007, 07:02 PM   #3
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