Detroit, Jun 30 (PTI) Arjun Atwal will become the first Indian golfer to play amid the COVID-19 threat as he tees up at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Thursday.

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The only Indian to win on the PGA Tour, Atwal, has got a start courtesy a sponsor's exemption into the USD 7.5 million event at the Detroit Golf Club.

Interestingly, there is another Indian connection with the much-talked about Sahith Theegala in the field.

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Theegala, an Indian-American, who turned pro in the first week of June, is playing only his second PGA Tour event. He has also got an invitation. Theegala made his PGA tour debut at the Travelers but missed the cut. Now he gets another chance. Daniel Chopra, a Swede of Indian origin, is on the list of alternates.

Atwal, who worked on his fitness during the lockdown, has missed cut in six of the eight starts this season. He was T-41 at Bermuda Championship and T-50 at Puerto Rico Open before the season was halted on March 15 due to Covid-19.

The last start came at Honda Classic, for which he came through a Monday qualifier.

"It is always great anytime you get a start on the PGA Tour. At a time like this when sport has had a big pause, hats off to PGA Tour for showing the way and working hard to build a schedule and making it work. It is a big opportunity for the golfers,” he said.

Playing without fans will however be a new experience for Atwal.

Meanwhile, Anirban Lahiri is training with his coach, Vijay Divecha. Lahiri who was with his parents in Hyderabad has now moved to Ahmedabad to be with his coach.

"I am tuning my game after a long lay-off due to the pandemic. Once I feel my game is again good enough to compete on the world's toughest Tour, I will get to the US. As of now we are also not sure of flights. So, the best thing is to reset my game," said Lahiri.

Theegala was born in California to Indian origin parents, Karuna and Muralidhar Theegala, who shifted to the US years ago.

Theegala is a multiple winner on the US Collegiate circuit and played for the US team in the Palmer Cup in 2018. This year, his golf season was cut short by the pandemic, though his exploits won him the prestigious Haskins Award and the Ben Hogan Award and was a finalist for the Jack Nicklaus award.

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