Queenstown, Feb 27 (PTI) Indian golfer Shiv Kapur is relishing the opportunity to play alongside close friend and former captain Stephen Fleming as he aims to establish himself as one of the genuine contenders for the 100th New Zealand Open starting Thursday.
The spirited 37-year-old will spearhead the Asian Tour challenge in the talented field when he make his debut appearance at the approx. USD 850,000 event, which is slated to take place at the scenic Millbrook Resort and The Hills.
Kapur, a four-time Asian Tour winner, is known for his love for cricket and he took time off to participate in a cricket match at the Millbrook Cricket Ground on Monday.
"Stephen and I have known each other for a few years now. We have been talking about playing together for a couple of years now and it's great that it's happening this time," he said.
"We played in a cricket match at the Millbrook Cricket Ground earlier this week and we have been paired together in the tournament as well. He is one of my childhood heroes on the cricket field and to be able to partner with him is a real honour for me."
Ahead of the event, Kapur also made an unforgettable trip to the beautiful Milford Sound with his family.
Kapur said is looking forward to his "favourite tournament of the year".
"I had a lot of high expectations of New Zealand after all that I had heard and it has definitely lived up to the hype and so much more now that I am here. I think it's by far the prettiest place in the world to play golf," he said.
"The tournament format and all that goes on around the event, it definitely gets my vote as my favourite tournament of the year."
Among others, Thailand's Panuphol Pittayarat is looking to better his tied-55th place result from last year as he gears up for a second attempt at the New Zealand Open. He sang praises of the event's Pro-Am format, which he deemed will help him stay relaxed and bring out his 'A' game.
Coming off the back of a victory, Australian Daniel Nisbet is hoping to kick start his title defence with a bang at the prestigious event, where he closed with a superb nine-under-par 62 to win by two shots for his maiden Asian Tour title at the Millbrook Resort 12 months ago.
A total of 152 professionals from 17 countries will play the first two rounds alternately at Millbrook Resort and The Hills before the second round cut of top 60 and ties.
The final two rounds will be played at The Hills and the New Zealand Open Champion will be the leading player after 72 holes of stroke play.
The tournament also hosts 152 amateur players, each partnering with a Professional in a two-man best-ball event, competing for the NZ Pro-Am Championship.
Notable Pro-Am celebrities to look out for include Black Caps legend Stephen Fleming, former Australian cricket captain Ricky Ponting, Tom Walsh, the world indoor and outdoor champion shot putter and newly-crowned New Zealand Sportsman of The Year, as well as Hayden Paddon, a former World Rally Championship driver. PTI
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