By Joy Chakravarty (@TheJoyofGolf)
Remember the song ‘First Cut is the Deepest’? Penned by songwriter extraordinaire Cat Stevens, it has been blessed by the vocals of many legends, including Rod Stewart and Sheryl Crow, over the years.
version of the song could well be – ‘First Win is the Sweetest’. A maiden is incredibly difficult to pull off at any level and something that is bound to stay with the players for a long time. Here is Shiv Kapur’s version of it, and the shot that made it all possible…
It happened in his rookie year. After making the country proud and clinching an individual gold at Busan Asian Games, Kapur joined the pro ranks and 2005 was his first season on the Asian Tour.
The start was a mixed bag – seven cuts made in first nine events but without any top-10. He then turned it around in spectacular fashion from the middle of September, making it to weekend in each of his nine remaining tournaments, with six top-10s that included a heart-breaking loss in the play-off of the Double A Intel Open and culminating with a win at the Tour’s season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia.
After three solid rounds at the Thai Country Club, Kapur was tied for the lead with compatriot and defending champion Jyoti Randhawa and Australian Marcus Both at 15-under par.
It was neck and neck when Randhawa made a birdie on the 11th hole and both were tied at 17-under par at that time. However, with Kapur paired in the penultimate group, he needed to set the pace and give his illustrious countrymate something to think about.
Birdies on the par-4 12th and 15th gave Kapur a one-shot advantage, but when he failed to pick up a shot on the par-5 17th hole, the pressure had ramped up several folds as he negotiated the tricky par-4 18th hole.
“Jyoti was playing behind me and I did not know what he had done when I teed off on the 18th. I was convinced that he’d make a birdie on the 17th, which means I absolutely needed to make a par or better on the 18th,” remembers Kapur.
“Obviously, I did not want a play-off and wanted to win outright. And honestly, I did not even think of the play-off loss to Chinarat (Phadungsil) the month before. It was my rookie year on the Tour and I was just happy to be playing in the Tour Championship and contending to win.
“I was so pumped up on the last that the 7-iron second shot I hit went a lot further just with the adrenaline pumping through my body. I hit it just over the back of the green and was now staring at a difficult two putt from a little more than 50 feet.”
The putt had a significant left-to-right break, but the bigger problem was that the last six-to-eight feet was going to be very quick towards the water.
“Truthfully, I was just trying to two-putt it from there but ended up holing it! It was my first international win, and for it to happen in my rookie season, it changed everything for me thereafter,” Kapur added.
Though the putt remains the most memorable shot of Kapur’s career, it certainly wasn’t the most heroic shot of his career.
For that, Kapur took us back to the 2008 Johnnie Walker Classic when the European Tour event was held at the DLF Golf & Country Club.
“On the old Arnold Palmer layout, I think I was either leading, or just one behind, when I hit my tee shot over the trees. The hole doglegs towards the left and there is a huge water body guarding the whole of the left side,” said Kapur.
“I ended up against a tree and the only shot I had was a low hook over the burn and to a fairway sloping left towards the water. It was a very risky shot, but I managed to pull it and get it to the front edge of the green and made a birdie.”
For the casual followers of the game, hitting a hook (where the ball turns sharply from right to left) is an extremely risky shot especially on a hole like the old ninth of DLF, where everything slopes towards water on the left.
“Thinking back, I may not have hit the shot if it was today. But we were young and impetuous then!” quipped Kapur.
Kapur also remembers a shot he hit which made Phil Mickelson take notice.
“It was during the WGC-Bridgestone invitational at Firestone Country Club when I qualified for the tournament in 2006,” said Kapur.
“I hit my second shot right of the green, where it hit the cart path and went on to the 18th tee box. I had a flop shot around 40 yards over a tall tree to a back-left pin. And to add to the pressure, there was Phil Mickelson, the King of Flop Shots, standing on the 18th tee, waiting for me to hit my shot before he teed off.
“I managed to pull off a Phil and hit it to about 4 feet! I got high-fived by the crowd all the way to the green. It also earned me a gentle, appreciative nod from the man himself.”