By Steve Douglas, Associated Press
GULLANE, Scotland -- The Open Championship leaderboard features a string of major champions entwined with winners on the European and PGA tours.
And right among them is a name that many probably won't recognize: Shiv Kapur.
"It's a funny name in the middle of all those sort of proven major winners and stuff," the 210th-ranked Kapur said.
Playing in the fourth-to-last group, the unheralded Indian shot a 3-under 68 on Thursday to finish two strokes behind first-round leader Zach Johnson. Yet after a stellar front nine at Muirfield, it could have been a whole lot better.
Kapur amazed himself by birdieing six of the first seven holes on greens some players said were so fast that they were unplayable.
His solution to stopping the ball? Knock it in the hole.
"Probably the fastest greens I've ever played in my life," Kapur said. "They weren't green, they were white out there. And (I) couldn't get the ball to stop.
"So I knew it's 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."
When he went 6 under by making birdie at No. 7, Kapur was leading the British Open -- "the greatest tournament there is."
"I think I was in a bit of a trance there for a while," he said.
Kapur's round came out of the blue.
The son of a stockbroker in New Delhi, his only victory of note came in 2005 in the season-ending Volvo Masters of Asia in Bangkok. That helped him earn his card on the European Tour, but between 2005 and 2012 he missed 89 cuts in 188 events.
He is back on the Asian Tour and is the fourth-ranked Indian behind Gaganjeet Bhullar, Anirban Lahiri and Jeev Milkha Singh .
Arjun Atwal rose to prominence in 2010 by becoming the first Indian to win a tournament on the PGA Tour at the Wyndham Championship.
Now it's the 31-year-old Kapur's time to hog the spotlight after "pretty close to the best nine holes I've ever played."
"It's early days yet, but, yes, of course, I think (this is) what India really needs," Kapur said, when asked what impact his opening round at Muirfield will have back home.
"In India golf is already the fastest growing sport statistically ... Golf is really on the up, and if you were to have someone go out and do well in a major, it gives the young kids a lot of belief, that, hey, if he can do it, I can do it as well. And I think you want to be the guy that's setting the bar for them."
Kapur fell back into the pack after a double-bogey 6 on No. 10 and then another dropped shot on No. 14. The challenge now? Make the cut, which he failed to do at his only other appearance in a major -- the 2006 Open at Hoylake played in similar conditions to these.
"When you get 3 under instead of 3 over going into Friday, it's a bit nicer," he said. "Obviously, there's a lot of thoughts and a little bit more attention on me, but I'll enjoy that. 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."
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