Kapur up for the Challenge after Open dream

7/30/2013 1:50:00 PM
Shiv Kapur  (Getty Images)
Shiv Kapur (Getty Images)
After basking in the fame and adulation that comes with topping the leaderboard at The Open Championship, Shiv Kapur is slowly returning to earth and arrives at this week’s Finnish Challenge focussed on making his comeback to The European Tour via the Challenge Tour.

Kapur reached one of the headiest heights of his career as the New Delhi man birdied six of his opening seven holes at Muirfield two weeks ago to storm to the top of the leaderboard during the first day of the oldest of the four Majors.

By the time he reached the ninth green, Kapur was launched right into the limelight as the TV cameras and dozens of photographers perused his every move.

It was a day Kapur will never forget and one which makes him even more determined in his efforts to build on a maiden Challenge Tour title at the season-opening Gujarat Kensville Challenge and claim a top 15 spot in the Rankings.

“It was an amazing experience,” said the 31 year old. “You grow up as a kid hoping one day you will see your name up on that leaderboard. The Open Championship for me is the greatest tournament of them all because growing up in India, that was the one Major we would watch and look forward to.

“It was a surreal experience and I really soaked it in. At the ninth I looked up and saw the leaderboard and it was just, ‘wow’. Obviously I would have liked to have played four solid rounds but being up there at the top momentarily is certainly better than never being up there at all.

“After about five or six holes, when I was four under, I didn’t think about it too much and then I got to the ninth green and pretty much everyone around the green had a camera and then you realise what you’re doing. It was cool and I enjoyed every bit of it.

“It was nice to steal the limelight from Tiger Woods, playing on the same side of the draw, momentarily. When I finished I had about 200 text messages and too many emails, I nearly had to switch my phone off.

“It made big news in India and in my college in America so that’s great. The young kids in India will look at that and say, ‘if he can be there and lead The Open there is no reason why I can’t’, and that’s the path I want to set for the youngsters coming through.

“I got some nice messages from people saying it was the proudest moment of their lives seeing the Indian flag atop the leaderboard at The Open. People in my club said they never thought they would see in their lifetime - an Indian leading a Major. There was so much positive feedback.”

After such an overwhelming experience then, how does Kapur reel his emotions in and get back to the daily grind of tournament golf?

“It is difficult,” he admits. “Last week in Russia was difficult for me because I was mentally fatigued from the whole thing, completely spent.

“I played five practice rounds and four rounds at Muirfield and when you’re not used to going into the press room every day after your round, they are long days. But I have to take the positives. I was up there in the greatest tournament in the world and I just have to come back now and take care of business and use it as a confidence boost.

“I haven’t played many Challenge Tour events so far because I've had a few European Tour events and I'm also trying to juggle the Asian Tour but I have come to a point in the season where I'm going to play three or four events here and give it a go and see what happens.

“I feel like I'm playing well now so irrespective of where I play, I should be competing and that’s the idea going into the week, come here and contend and hopefully the results will take care of themselves.”

There are plenty of other players in the field at Kytäjä Golf, in Hyvinkää near Helsinki, with big-time experience, including former Ryder Cup players Jarmo Sandelin and Oliver Wilson as well as three-time European Tour winner Nick Dougherty.

Kapur is also joined by six other winners from the 2013 Challenge Tour season, including François Calmels, who only needs one more victory to earn automatic promotion to The European Tour.

Home hopes will rest on the likes of Roope Kakko, who is 21st in the Challenge Tour Rankings after an impressive start to the season, and experienced pro Mikko Korhonen, while 23 year old Tapio Pulkkanen is a rising star of Finnish golf and will aim to secure a maiden title on home soil.