For 32-year-old Shiv Kapur, it took close to a decade to fullfill one of his major goals — qualifying for the US Open. Back in 2004, Kapur had come agonisingly close to doing just that, all while studying at Purdue University. But a decade on, that dream never got any closer until he finished tied fifth with a score of 139 in the US Open Sectional Qualifier won by Shane Lowry of Ireland held at Walton Health Golf Club, Surrey. The two sectional qualifiers were held in Surrey and Aichi, Japan, on May 26 and a total of 20 golfers including Kapur qualified for the US Open. He then spoke to The Indian Express. Excerpts.
How do you see this opportunity and how tough was the qualifier?
The qualifying is always tough with the likes of Padraig Harrington, Jose Maria Olazabal. They are proven major winners and it was never going to be an easy field to qualify. You have to bring your A game on that day. It is extremely satisfying to come out on top, considering the course was tough and as were the conditions.
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How will you tackle your nerves during the major?
This, playing in majors, is what you play the sport for. It’s hard to describe what it feels like to make it there, but that’s only half the step. Performances in majors is what you are eventually evaluated upon. I’m going to spend the next two months preparing on all aspects of my game and head to Pinehurst early to acclimatise and get prepared for one of the toughest tests in golf.
You will become the third Indian player to play in the US Open. What are your earliest memories of the tournament?
It’s always been a boyhood dream of mine to play in the US Open, especially since I went to college in America and came agonising close to qualifying back in 2004 when I was still in college. So now that I’m there I’m going to soak in the whole experience and live the dream.
Last year, you also qualified for the British Open and got off to a pretty memorable start. What did that feel like and where would you want to improve at Pinehurst?
The Open was a dream come true for me last year. I can always hold my head up high saying that I led the oldest major in the world and that the Indian flag was on top of the leaderboard on the first day. The only thing I’d like to improve upon is to carry on and capitalise on a good start and not let it slip away. The experience at The Open has given me the belief that I belong at this level.
You have also been working with Australia’s Jamie Gough and Italy’s Alberto Binaghi. How did they help improve your game?
Jamie and Alberto have both been a great help to me. Jamie has helped me mould my golf swing and make it more consistent and repeatable, as well as helping me have the ability to work the ball both ways. Alberto, on the other hand, was helping me get a more rounded short game which is crucial to playing in major championships.
Your last win on the tour came in Dubai in 2013. How have you dealt with a winless season and what are the changes you have made to your mental and physical game?
Winning in Dubai put my career back on track and got me my spot back on the European Tour and back in the winners circle. About the previous year, it has been about consolidation and building on that momentum from the back end of last year. I will be playing in the Nordea Masters in Sweden this week and I expect to utilise this experience of playing in European conditions before playing at Pinehurst.
India’s roll of honour
Shiv Kapur: kapur will become the third Indian to play in the US Open and fourth Indian golfer to play in two or more majors. Kapur played in the British Open in 2006, where he missed the cut and finished tied 73rd in British open in 2013.
Jeev Milkha Singh: Singh has played in the US Open four times. Jeev made the cut three times with his best being a tied 36 in 2007. Jeev finished 62nd in 2002, 59th in 2006 and missed the cut in 2009. The Chandigarh golfer has played in 13 majors, by far the highest by any Indian golfer.
Arjun Atwal: Atwal is the third Indian to have played in the US Open. He missed the cut in his only appearance in US Open in 2010. Atwal has played in five majors. Atwal missed the cut in the Masters in 2011, missed the cut in British open in 2004 and in 2005 and 2011 in PGA Championship.