He lost in a play-off to Richie Ramsay in the 2010 South African Open Championship, but not even that performance prepared Shiv Kapur for his stunning opening nine on Thursday in the first round of the Open Championship.
He finished the round on three-under-par 68, two shots off the pace set by Zach Johnson, and it looked for all the world as if he might defy the brutally tough conditions at Muirfield that left superstars looking like mere mortals and possibly lead by plenty.
That was after he turned in a staggering six-under-par 30 in the afternoon, when the greens were drying out at an alarming rate, and even Tiger Woods was sending a putt from one side of the green right off the other – and then seeing his return chip not crest the hill and roll away again.
“I got off to a dream start,” Kapur said. “I birdied my first three, and after that I just said, just keep doing what you’re doing, do the basics right, hit fairways and greens.
“Those were probably the fastest greens I’ve ever played in my life. They weren’t green, they were white out there. And you couldn’t get the ball to sort of stop. So I knew it would be tough to hole putts out there, but you’ve just got to keep giving yourself chances. And putts fell for me on the front nine,” he added.
He made birdies on his opening three holes, which, in itself, was a better start than anyone else as the opening hole proved surprisingly uncooperative for even the best players in the world. And then he made par on four before reeling off another three consecutive birdies ahead of the turn.
That streak included some remarkable putting. “It was just trying to get the ball started on line,” he said. “I don’t know about the others, but they felt like they weren’t rolling. It was like putting on glass, it was like 14 on the stimpmeter. And when you’re putting downwind and downhill, it’s close to 16 or 17. It’s probably pretty close to the best nine holes I’ve ever played.”
It certainly got the attention of the golfing world. “You go out there and play quietly,” he said. “In fact, we were walking down the 10th fairway and my playing partner said to me, ‘I thought it was going to be a quiet afternoon round, and now look at what you’ve done to me with the cameras all around.’
“I've played enough tournaments where nobody really looks at your score or does anything, so it's nice to actually have people sit up and notice what you're doing. Usually you just go about your business and nobody really comes in the way. But it’s nice to have that. It was great to see my name up there and it’s something I'll be very proud of.”
He’s won just once in his professional career, when he took the Challenge Tour’s Gujarat Kensville Challenge in his home country India. A good performance in the Open will be a big deal – for Kapur and for Indian golf.