In six starts so far, he has made a little less than $306,000, which means he has some work to do.
He got into the AT & T National, because someone who was supposed to be in the 120-player field changed his mind at the last moment and created a vacancy.
"I didn't ask [Woods]," Atwal said yesterday, after opening with a 4-under-par 66 at Aronimink Golf Club in the first PGA Tour event in the Philadelphia area in 8 years. "Basically we were discussing schedules. And I said I was playing Hartford [last week] and then the [John] Deere [next week] and skip this. And he's like, 'Why aren't you playing mine?' Because he doesn't know. So I'm like, 'I'm not in; it's as simple as that.' He's like, 'Have you written for an invite?' I'm like, 'No, I'll play whenever I get in; I'm in no rush.' He's like, 'Well, if we get [an invitation] back,' because they had [already] given them out . . .
"And then he called me last week and told me I was in, but I had to play the Monday pro-am for that, which was fine."
Now, all Atwal has to do is take home a serious paycheck. Even though it's early, he obviously has put himself in position to do so. With one round in the books, he's bunched with three others atop the leaderboard: Joe Ogilvie (also listed under those "Other Prominents"), Jason Day, who just won in late May at the Byron Nelson, and Nick Watney, the only one in the group with two career victories. Atwal is still looking for his first.
All of the leaders played in the morning. Atwal was in the first threesome, with Nicholas Thompson and Tim Herron.
"It's always good to play a golf course like this with a purse like this," he said. "I'm going to play [in] Canada [July 22-25] after this, so I need to make . . . something [happen]."
Did we mention he managed to sneak in nine holes with Tiger on Tuesday afternoon?
"I'll take  every day," Atwal said. "I didn't really know what to expect because I hit it really bad last week [tied for 64th]. I practiced every day after the rounds up there, trying to work on some stuff. You never know until you actually tee it up. But it was a bit of a surprise.
"I played a lot with [Woods] before the U.S. Open, and all the practice rounds. I know he didn't play a great final round or whatever, but he's been getting better. His ball-striking has gotten a lot, lot better . . . Initially when I used to practice and play with him, I used to compare myself, but now it's just whatever."
He needed seven fewer swings to get around Aronimink than Woods, who won this event last year at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md., and was making his Philly golfing debut. But he blew up on the closing stretch, and is tied for 81st with a 73, which means that, for the time being, he's closer to flying out of here early than lifting his first trophy in 9 months.
"I hit it good all day, and made absolutely nothing," Woods said. "I putted awful. My speed was good, but my lines were not."
He wasn't exactly in deep like with the greens at Pebble Beach, either. Still . . .
"[The galleries] were incredible today," he continued. "They were following us, having a great time, and unfortunately we didn't give them a whole lot to cheer about."
One partner, 1997 PGA champ Davis Love III, tied for worst score with a 78. Dustin Johnson, who imploded in the final round at the U.S. Open, was 3-over after four (which included a 40-foot par-save on the third), but escaped with a 71.
Ogilvie, who lifted his only trophy 3 years ago, had missed eight of 19 cuts this season, with one top 10 finish.
"[Today] I had a lot of chances for birdie," Ogilvie said. "I made some putts. It's nice to see a few balls go in the hole."
Day, who is 34th on the money list this season, was able to use a wedge eight times on his approach shots. That usually tends to help.
"I had only one three-putt, on 10, and that was my only bogey, which was obviously nice," he said. "If I can keep those bogeys to a minimum, I think it'll be really, really nice around here, because it's a very tough golf course. It's only going to get tougher over the next few days."
Watney is 36th on the money list, with four top-10s.
"I was never really in much trouble," he said. "You've got to be smart out there. You definitely have to think your way around. They didn't ease into it with the pin placements today. They were pretty nasty. I guess it depends on how difficult they want to make it."
A half-dozen are one back, most notably, 2004 U.S. Amatuer champ Ryan Moore. Of the eight at 68, Billy Mayfair might be the most recognizable name. Sixteen players are at 69, including local rooting interest Jim Furyk, the hot Justin Rose and Rickie Fowler, who was part of the winning American team at last September's Walker Cup matches at Merion.
At least they all knew they were coming before last week.
It never hurts to have the proper connection.
"[Tiger's] always been there [for me]," Atwal said. "Just everything. He always helps me if I have any questions . . . It's unbelievable.
"All I can say is I owe him a little bit right now."
Maybe he can give Woods a putting tip. *