By Shiv Kapoor
Given the time difference between India and the US, by the time you get to read this I would have played my first round, which is scheduled to start in the morning session Thursday. With family and friends around and my coach, James Gough’s re-assuring presence, I have been focused and relaxed.
The opening pairing, too, has been comfortable. I have played with Liang (Wen-chong) on the Asian and European Tours, and Max Kieffer is someone I know from the European Tour. It is always nice to have playing partners, who you know well and are easy to get along. It relaxes you and sometimes you feed off their energy.
On Wednesday, I also got to play nine holes with Jim Furyk and Justin Leonard — both major champions. Some coaches have even compared my game to theirs, so that’s a huge compliment. As for my game, the driving has been solid and my short game looks good.
Pinehurst is a great course and has hosted the US Open twice. First, in 1999 when Payne Stewart, a former winner of Indian Open at Delhi Golf Club had won it. Unfortunately, the much-loved golfer’s untimely death in an air crash robbed the sport of a great champion. On the next occasion, in 2005, the winner was Michael Campbell, who qualified through the European leg. That was the first time, the US Open organisers had a qualifier from Europe. And, yes, it was at Walton Heath, from where I qualified this time as well. I have known ‘Cambo’ and he has also played in India and in the Golf Premier League.
Pinehurst No. 2 — one of the eight courses here — has ‘upturned saucer’ greens. It places a premium on second shots. One has to be sharp with the short game. In the US Open, the winning scores are rarely very low, and scoring is tough. To summarise, it will be ‘interesting’, and ‘difficult’.The event will surely miss Tiger Woods.
Then, there is Phil Mickelson. fans would want to see him win the US Open at least once. He has won each of the other three Majors, but at the US Open, he has finished second or tied for second no less than six times!