Only human

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Published: November 19, 2017 4:40:03 AM

Kapur has always been as upfront about his follies as he has been about his strengths on the golf course. So much so that even hacks, your columnist included, would avoid asking him the one question he’d failed to answer: that elusive win at the course where he grew up and learnt the game—the Delhi Golf Club.

Shiv Kapur

It’s so appropriate: the accompanying soundtrack to Shiv Kapur’s website—Human by The Killers—is what the golfer calls his ‘theme tune’. Kapur has always been as upfront about his follies as he has been about his strengths on the golf course. So much so that even hacks, your columnist included, would avoid asking him the one question he’d failed to answer: that elusive win at the course where he grew up and learnt the game—the Delhi Golf Club. And when someone would ask, Kapur would just shrug: his guess was as good as anyone else’s. It’s not as if he had never made a run for it. In 2010, he came agonisingly close, finishing bridesmaid at the Sail Open, and in third spot at Hero National Open the same year. More recently, in 2013, he had a clutch of top-five finishes at the Sail Open and Panasonic Open at the DGC. But more than a win at the DGC, the more pertinent question that fans, and the man himself, was confronted with over the past two years since he lost his card on the European Tour was whether Kapur—who’d won the Rookie of the Year honour on the Asian Tour by capturing the big-ticket Volvo Masters of Asia in 2005—would ever win again.

The year 2017 did not, by any stretch of imagination, herald a comeback for Kapur. In 2016, a liver operation had put him out of the running for a few months, plummeting his rankings and pushing him out of the running for the Olympics. Bereft of a European Tour card, where he’d been plying his trade for the past decade, Kapur returned to the Asian Tour. For a man who’d contended in million-dollar tournaments, to compete for $300,000 events on the Asian Tour was a massive comedown—if he felt dejected, Kapur never showed it. At the 2017 Yeangder Heritage Golf tournament in Taiwan earlier this year—11 years after that historic win in 2005 that announced his arrival on the world stage—Kapur won his second tournament on the Asian Tour. Coming after an extended period of self-doubt during which he seriously contemplated giving up the game, the win was a personal victory for the Delhi golfer. Faced with serious adversity for the first time in his career, Kapur was galvanised out of his comfort zone and found that extra edge that he’d been missing for years. Push a man into a corner and he’ll fight with everything he’s got. Turns out, Kapur always had it in him, but perhaps just wasn’t desperate enough.

That hunger to win didn’t subside with the win in Taiwan. Kapur nearly won again a week later at the Thailand Open in which he closed with a career-best 63, but finished a shot shy to come in the second place. By the time the Panasonic Open rolled around to the Delhi Golf Club, Kapur’s good fortune had seemingly taken a hit. Struck by debilitating dengue fever, Kapur struggled to play even nine holes during practice rounds in the week preceding the event; he very nearly pulled out of the field. It’s happened before: the injured, or afflicted, golfer is often the one to watch out for, and Kapur proved the adage yet again. And it was no low-scoring affair either: with four sub-par rounds, Kapur aggregated a staggering 17-under par to edge out the field by three strokes. Significantly, he led by a solitary stroke going into the final day’s play and held his nerve throughout the day. “I was telling myself, ‘Just finish the race’, and it’s just amazing to be able to do it. This victory has not really sunk in yet, but when I was walking down the 18th, I was really trying to hold back the emotions. I am at a loss for words, you dream about winning, you plan things, but I never got that far in my career, so I never really prepared a speech in my life,” he said with typical candour at the winner’s press conference. Kapur has always had the game; he’s had a great career on the European Tour and made a lot of money. Perhaps the trough he found himself in the past couple of years was precisely what was needed to spur him on to the next level. Could a European Tour victory be in the offing?

The Continental Tour’s season-ending Race to Dubai will conclude today with the final round of the DP World Championship being played at Jumeirah Golf Estates in Dubai. It’s a three-man race between Englishmen Tommy Fleetwood and Justin Rose and Spaniard Sergio Garcia who beat Rose at the Augusta Master this year. Garcia, who’s finally living up to his vaunted potential, has an uphill battle, as he tries to bed in new clubs after changing his equipment going into the next season. At the time this column was written, Fleetwood had shot a scintillating seven-under 65 on the second day to keep himself in the running after Rose had seized the initiative by shooting a six-under 66 on the first day. Going into the weekend, Rose was placed third and needs to maintain or better that position to win the European Tour’s Order of Merit. Fleetwood has the brilliance to pull off an upset today, but Rose, unflappable as he is, is the one to put your money on. It’s the last round of the 2017 season on the European Tour, and one couldn’t have asked for a more exciting finish to the playoffs. Don’t miss it.

A golfer, Meraj Shah also writes about the game

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