By V Krishnaswamy
Pebble Beach (California), June 16 (IANS) It may only be golfer Arjun Atwal's first US Open but the Indian ace has been in a lot of news and it has generally been for his more famous practise partner, who is also world's most-talked about player - Tiger Woods.
Atwal, the former Asia No. 1 and one of India's most successful professional golfer, is said to be one of Woods' closest buddies and his regular playing partner in practise rounds during the last few difficult months for the American, did so again Sunday and then Monday.
And not just that, Monday, Atwal also had for company the long-hitting Dustin Johnson, who is spoken of very highly on the PGA Tour.
If Woods won the US Open, when it was last held here at Pebble Beach in 2000 by a record 15 shots, Johnson has won the highly acclaimed AT&T Pebble Beach last two years, the latest one in February.
In fact, Johnson is the only player since Woods to have gone straight from college and won at least once on the PGA Tour in each of his first three years.
Atwal, who has seen Woods from close over the last few difficult month, is convinced that the American is "very close" to his best.
"He is playing well," said Atwal, who watched him closely last couple of days.
On his own game, Atwal said he skipped the St. Jude's Classic last week to concentrate on the US Open.
"I have only a certain number of starts and I have done well at Pebble Beach, so I wanted to focus on US Open after qualifying for it."
Atwal plays the first round with Jason Gore and Jim Herman, another debutant at this year's US Open.
Woods, meanwhile, goes head to head with Ernie Els, and Less Westwood, one of the hottest players in the world right now and winner at St. Jude's Classic in Memphis last week.
Not willing to speak or reveal too much about friendship with Woods, Atwal, a seven-time winner on Asian Tour and three times winner on European Tour, added: "He has been playing very well last couple of weeks. I think he is getting better with each day."
So much so, Atwal believes that Woods could be pretty close to his days of "winning Majors" like he did before.
"It is just a matter of time and I am sure he will. He has worked real hard at his game and he feels that the more he work, the closer he is to his old form," said Atwal, whose practise round with Woods and Johnson was followed by a huge crowd Monday, when the temperatures dipped noticeably around the Monterey Peninsula, where Pebble Beach is located.
Woods and Atwal are neighbours in Windermere, Florida and are also members of the Isleworth Country Club and they have also played together on the club team at the Tavistock Cup in the past.