Golf
Jonathan Selvaraj, ESPN 19d

Nervy Shiv Kapur brings out his aggressive side to win big

Golf

On the night before he would win the Panasonic Open in New Delhi on Sunday, the omens for Shiv Kapur were less than promising. He might have rather expected to have a pleasant rest on Saturday night.

For a start, he was lying on his own bed at his home in Delhi and not the ones in unfamiliar hotels he usually has to as a travelling golf professional. He had plenty to look forward to, too. The 35-year-old golfer had just finished the day in the joint lead at the Panasonic Open, one clear of the chasing pack. He was within sniffing distance of his the second Asian Tour title of the year and the third of his career. It would also be the first on his home course at the Delhi Golf Club.

Yet, Kapur would toss and turn in his bed. "I didn't sleep very well," he admits. "I woke up at 2 am last night. I had all these things in my head," he says. He had been in this position before. Back in 2010, he had held the lead in the SAIL Open going into the final round before faltering when it mattered most to finish second. Worryingly, Kapur who carded a 3-under-par 69 in the third round had felt a glitch in his swing. After the round, he would practice by himself into the night to iron out the perceived flaw.

None of his fears would materialise on Sunday though. Kapur would card a 4-under-par 68 to finish with an overall 17-under-par 271 -- three shots clear at the top. After a bogey on the par-four 10th, he would storm down the back nine, hitting four birdies, to break free from the pack. There were few nerves even as he two-putted the 18th hole for par without much fuss.

This, of course, is a very different Kapur compared to the one who faltered at the finish seven years ago. Kapur then had seemingly forgotten how to win. He had won a title on his debut year on the Asian Tour in 2005 but had nothing ever since. He had been guilty of overthinking his game. "I might have been a bit too cautious in the past," he would say after his win.

Now, Kapur is a lot more relaxed. He finally broke his dry spell at the Yeangder Classic in Taiwan in April this year. He recently became a father and says his three-month-old daughter Veda gives him a different, less golf-obsessed perspective to life. "I'm definitely in a better frame of mind," he says. "I go home after a tiring day and the first thing I do is change a diaper. I am sitting with her and rocking her," he says. Veda helped him calm his nerves on Sunday too. "In the morning, I got up and was playing with her and her toys and then I looked at my watch and I realised I have to go to the golf course. I am a lot more relaxed and I think that helps me," he says.

Once Kapur stepped on the golf course, he suffered a slight blip when he three putted to bogey the 10th hole. However, that only brought out the new aggressive personality that he has been working on. "I think it (the bogey) worked to my advantage. I just said to myself, now it is go time. The tournament starts now and I have to grab it by the scruff. In the past, I might have gone into a bit of a shell. Now I caught myself doing that. Sometimes a 3-putt or a bogey gets you going."

Kapur would follow that bogey with birdies on the 11th and 12th hole and then two more on the 14th and 15th hole -- leaving him three clear of the field and well within sight of the title. "Even when I had a 2-shot lead on the 14th, I was trying to birdie the 15th, and on the 15th, I was trying to birdie the 16th," he says.

It was only after his second shot on the par-five 18th hit the fairway that Kapur eased up and let himself soak in the applause of an appreciative home crowd that included his parents, wife and child. "Once I did that, the nerves went away and I could quietly celebrate on the inside," he says. A two-putt for par later he had the title.

Kapur though isn't done just yet. Despite his nervousness and a wonky swing, he managed to record his best four-round score at the DGC, giving up just two bogeys and as many double bogeys in the process. "Without trying to sound arrogant, I don't think I played as well as I am capable of," he says.

While the nerves might come back at some point, Kapur now has a solution for those too. "What I have realized is I need to be spending more time at home and not thinking about the game so much. I know there is a lot of promise that will help me until the the end of the season," he says.

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