New Delhi: Shiv Kapur may have been tired after the tension of last week, but there was also a feeling of satisfaction of having achieved what he had set out do. Needing to finish in top-3 to make his European Tour, Shiv Kapur outclassed the field at the Dubai Festival City Challenge by four shots to win his second title of the year and also earn his European Tour card for 2014.
While Kapur is the toast of the Indian contingent this week, the other stars around include PGA Tour winner, Michael Thompson, European Tour winner Robert Rock, Arjun Atwal, Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri and a host of others including Jbe Kruger, Jonathan Moore and Pariya Junhasavasdikul of Thailand.
Kapur said, “It was a tiring week. It was mentally exhausting but it was satisfying to win. Winning in the end is satisfying. I was quite tired after all of that but I’m coming into this week with a lot of confidence. I just need to get my energy levels back.”
“This is my home course and I want to do well here,” added Kapur, who was fourth at the 2012 Indian Open in Bangalore.
“Every year I sit here and keeping telling all of you that it is always my dream to win the Indian Open. It is the fifth Major for all of us and I would love to win it, more so because it is held at the Delhi Golf Club. Obviously the Indian Open being in its 50th year makes it more special. The fact that I’m coming into this week with a little bit of form will help my chances. It will mean a lot more than winning last week,” added Kapur.
“It was back in 2000 when I won the low amateur and I came close last year. I had a few chances. Most of the time I’ve been coming from behind and trying to close the gap. Hopefully this time around I can get off and running early so I’m not trying to make up the deficit.”
He went on to say, “Winning last week is the freshest highlight so far this season but leading at The Open was a high point in the year. Hopefully I can sit in front of you guys and say that winning the Hero Indian Open is the highlight of my year!”
Thompson remembers he was just seven years old when he walked up to get an autograph from the late Payne Stewart. On Tuesday, he admitted feeling overwhelmed while playing the tournament the legendary Stewart won back in 1981.
“It is amazing that I should be playing in a tournament that he won so long back. I would be most proud to emulate that,” said Thompson, who won a PGA Tour event this year.
Thompson is a first-time to India, as Robert Rock, who has two European Tour titles, one of which came in Abu Dhabi, where beat Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy in one go.
Englishman Rock, making his debut at the Hero Indian Open hailed the longevity of the Indian Open. “I watched this tournament on television a few years ago and I thought the course looked pretty good. It suits my style because it is more tree lined and not necessarily the longest. We play a lot of courses which are really long and it can get a bit boring,” said Rock.
“There are not many events that last as long as the Indian Open! I’m happy with this event as it celebrates its 50 years and it is staged on a traditional course. I think that is what you need to do, to maintain the tradition of a tournament,” he added.
Jbe Kruger, who has won an Asian Tour title in India, also saluted the strong support from Hero MotoCorp. “Without sponsors, we as a Tour won’t grow. I think as professional golfers we won’t have a job! We would like to say ‘thank you’ as much as we can to Hero. We can’t really thank the sponsors enough. I know they get a lot out of these events but if there weren’t sponsors we won’t have a job!” said the slightly built South African.
While the Indian challenge may be spearheaded by the in-form Kapur, the others cannot be taken lightly. Bhullar, Lahiri and Chiragh Kumar are all players who can strike it big this week.
Also in the field is Atwal, the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour.
India’s rising star Lahiri hopes to keep the prestigious National Open trophy on home soil as C. Muniyappa was the last Indian to win the Hero Indian Open title in 2009.
“Coming into this week, I think the whole bunch of us is looking strong to keep the Indian Open title at home. Muniyappa was the last Indian to win the title and since then, no Indian has won it so it will be nice to break that,” said Lahiri.
Lahiri said the Indians will not have a ‘home advantage’ at the Delhi Golf Club, as the course has been a regular venue on the region’s premier Tour, which is celebrating its 10th season in 2013.
Four-time Asian Tour winner, Bhullar, is also oozing confidence after having confirmed his European Tour card for 2014. Bhullar is also back from playing the star-studded CIMB Classic and the WGC-HSBC, and is also going to be playing in the World Cup soon.
Daniel Chopra, a two-time runner-up at the Indian Open in 1995 and 1996 and also a two-time PGA Tour winner, who is also set for the 2014 season on PGA Tour, will also be here. “It is always great to be in India and I love playing at the DGC. I think I first played here in 1987 as an amateur and in 1991 as a pro. Barring a few times in recent years when I have been on PGA I pretty much try and play the Indian Open as often as I can,” said Chopra.
The Asian challenge will also include Jonathan Moore of the US, Pariya Junhasavasdikul of Thailand.
Moore, an Asian Tour regular, feels more comfortable playing at the Delhi Golf Club now compared to his first experience in 2011 where he was caught off-guard by the narrow and tree lined fairways.
“The Delhi Golf Club is unique. I have never played another golf course where guys are taking the drivers out of the golf bag! I’m taking out my driver this week too. I have a three wood that would hopefully do the job,” said the 28-year-old Moore.