On Sunday afternoon, not long after he won the Yeangder Heritage golf tournament in Taiwan, Shiv Kapur's phone buzzed with a message. It was from a friend, cricketer Robin Uthappa. "Looks like we got our mojo back," Uthappa had written. Indeed they had. Uthappa, who was dropped from the Karnataka Ranji side after a dismal run earlier this season, has had a near perfect IPL -- he is third on the run charts. Kapur's dry spell was perhaps even longer. His win in Taiwan was only his second on the Asian tour -- coming 12 years after his first, in his debut season back in 2005.
Kapur's statistics reveal even more. One of the reasons the Indian has taken so long to replicate the win in his debut season was because he hadn't played on the Asian tour for over a decade. He had instead been competing in the European tour, having won his tour card in 2006. He only returned to the Asia tour after losing his card in 2015. It was part of a bad stretch of his career, one which had him seriously considering his future in the sport.
The 35-year-old has had his share of success in his playing career. He won his first tournament -- the season-ending Volvo Masters -- in just his second year as a professional in 2005. He had two wins on the European Challenge tour too -- both in 2013. Kapur had stepped on the biggest stage of golf too. He briefly held the lead on the opening day of The Open and finished tied-23 at the US Open the following year. However, since those heady days, Kapur seemed to have been stuck in a rut.
"I was constantly feeling ill and the lack of form," he says. "My energy levels were low. I kept beating myself up because I felt I was lacking motivation." Kapur was eventually diagnosed with an abscess in his liver that required surgery. The surgery and recovery saw him tumble down the rankings, ultimately failing to make the cut for the Olympics -- an event the Asian Games gold medallist was looking forward to. "Everything that could have gone wrong went wrong at the same time," he says. It was a dark phase of his career, he admits. "There are times when self-doubt creeps in. I was wondering whether I want to put in the hours to train. I wasn't 22, where I was training 17 hours a day with no problem. I wondered whether I had had my run and that now it was over. I thought to myself, 'Was I was ever going to win again?'"
"In the last two years I tried to make changes that I didn't need too. I just needed a bit of patience. I just have to try to make sure I am not reinventing the wheel. Sometimes it is just a dip in form. Sometimes a loss of form is just a loss of form." Shiv Kapur
While Kapur introspected, he spoke to other sportspersons on how they dealt with the same issues. He spoke to Adam Scott and Darren Clarke, who suffered a major loss of form in 2006 before eventually coming back to win the 2011 British Open. "Every sportsman has a shelf life which we often don't realise ourself," Kapur says. "What was comforting for me was that the best players in the world doubt themselves. You just have to hope you are putting the right work."
He wasn't just speaking to golfers. "This question is common across sports," says Kapur. "I was chatting with Robin Uthappa when he had his loss of form and [former Australian cricketer] Dean Jones has helped me a lot too." The overwhelming advice was to keep things simple. "In the last two years I tried to make changes that I didn't need too. I just needed a bit of patience. I just have to try to make sure I am not reinventing the wheel. Sometimes it is just a dip in form. Sometimes a loss of form is just a loss of form."
In an attempt to compete against the big drivers in Europe, Kapur says he had modified his original shot, which was to shape the ball from the left to the right. "When I did that, I lost my natural strength," he says. "I had no go-to shot when I was under pressure." And when Kapur reverted to his original technique, Jones would provide a mantra to help him compensate. "Deano told me the golfing equivalent of a batsman's defence was a good short game," he says. "If I work on that, it would make up for any deficiency in my long game."
And while Kapur took up the advice, he admits it was demoralizing to have to work his way up from the Asian tour. "Obviously I would like to play on the European tour," he says. "It might have been easier to deal with competing if you haven't seen the top, it's much easier. But once you have seen the glory at the top, it's hard to motivate yourself. It's a test of your character." And while the Asian tour is nowhere near as prestigious as the PGA or European tours, Kapur is glad to have got back to winning ways. "I've played in tournaments with a prize money of $10 million and in the Asian tour where the prize money is $300,000. The butterflies in my stomach in the last three holes in Taiwan are the same as when I teed off at the US Open."
Now though, having recovered his mojo, Kapur is looking to make the most of it. He will be competing at the Thailand Open in May and then the qualifiers for the British Open later in the month. It is a steep challenge but one Kapur says he is ready for. "I've gone through a stage where I was second-guessing myself," he says. "It's good to put those doubts to rest."