As is customary for the leader, Richard Karlberg walked into the media centre on Thursday and plunked onto a chair. Blowing heavily to dry the perspiration, the jovial Swede adjusted his cap in a manner, which made it appear as if he was ensuring the “crown” was a perfect fit.
Done with it, he asked with a twinkle, “Where’s the queen?” As laughter broke out, he slipped deeper into the chair and, looking at the vacant seat next to him, remarked, “Never mind, I’ll have one tomorrow.”
Twenty-four hours later, Karlberg had Shiv Kapur by his side as the man who finished second best in the SAIL Open.
For a rookie, who earned the season’s Asian Tour card through the Q-School, it was normal to be wracked by doubt but aiding him was a beacon. “I kept reminding myself to get to 18-under to give myself a chance,” he said.
At the start of the final day, Kapur was tied for the lead at 14-under 202, but as the morning wore on at the Delhi Golf Club, their fortunes headed in different directions.
Like the Swede, Kapur began with a birdie but that was all he could offer as a challenge. From “red-hot”, the putter turned cold again and it led to Kapur bogeying the third. It was a deciding moment, as save the birdie on the 8th, he never looked like questioning Karlberg’s supremacy.
“I did not hole as many putts as I would have liked on the back nine (which was even-par), but I don’t think it would have made a difference. The only thing I can do is be a gracious loser,” said Kapur.
Even as the Indian was bumbling, Karlberg struck a purple patch by embarking on a birdie-making spree between the 5th and 7th. Given the lead, the title was his provided he kept his head on the tight fairways.
“I was more nervous after those three birdies as anything can happen on this course,” he said. The bogey on the 14th was probably a manifestation of the nervousness, but the 23-year-old made sure his fears did not come true. The end came with a flourish. Birdies on the 17th and 18th established that the 20-under 268 was a new Asian Tour record at the DGC.
The five-shot victory and the cheque of $47,550 buttressed Karlberg’s belief that a golf course is where he belongs.
“A friend took me to the Scandinavian Masters and I got hooked. But it was after watching Tiger Woods win the US Masters (Karlberg was 10) that I realised this was something I wanted to do,” he said.