Casey shines as Schwartzel leads

Paul Casey was two shots off the pace set by Charl Schwartzel in Thursday’s first round of the WGC-CA Championship.

England’s in-form Paul Casey was thrilled to finish the opening round of the WGC-CA Championship only two shots off the pace set by South African young gun Charl Schwartzel in windy Miami on Thursday – after thinking, at one stage, that Robert Allenby must have been playing “a different course”.
This midway through the round when the seasoned Australian was defying the conditions and had shot an eagle and six birdies to stand at eight under par after just 12 holes.
But then the wheels came off and Allenby bogeyed the last four holes to fall off the top of the leaderboard..
That handed top spot to South African Charl Schwartzel with his five under par 67 – the only bogey-free round of the day – while Casey had four successive birdies late in the day before dropping a shot at the last to be in a tie for fifth spot.
“I thought Robert was playing a different course,” said the world number six, who has a chance this week to become Tiger Woods’ closest challenger on the rankings for the first time.
“That was very impressive stuff – there are a lot of tough holes here – and I’m very happy with my 69.”
Far from satisfied, though, was Rory McIlroy as he handed in a bitterly disappointing 76 and then sentenced himself to some hard labour on the practice range.
McIlroy had only a few of the 68-strong field behind him after no fewer than six bogeys and so many shots into bunkers that he could not remember the final tally.
“I’m just struggling,” said the world number nine, who was out-scored by five by playing partner and defending champion Phil Mickelson.
“I’m not playing well and just can’t keep things going. I’ve been struggling since the weekend in Dubai (now over a month ago).”
He has had back trouble in that time, but added: “That’s not really a factor. I’m struggling with the whole game. When you’re playing well it’s easy, but when you’re not it’s difficult.”
Although McIlroy was exercising his back as he spoke he did not want anything read into that.
“Just keeping it mobile for the 500 balls I’m about to hit!”
Allenby pitched in from 114 yards for an eagle two at the fifth and after turning in 30 added further birdies on the 10th and 12th, both par fives.
He started to come back to the pack, however, when he went over the green at the 245-yard 15th.
“I couldn’t believe it was long. I thought it was short,” he commented.
“Then I got a flyer on the 16th, thought I was perfect on the 17th and found myself with no shot from the bunker, then tried to hit a cut on the last and hit it dead straight.”
Schwartzel, twice a European Tour winner in his native South Africa already this year and who did not drop a stroke all day, was overtaken by Vijay Singh coming down the closing stretch, but the Fijian found the lake on the treacherous 18th and double-bogeyed.
Ernie Els’ birdies at the 14th and 16th took him alongside his young compatriot, but he too was in the water at the last and with a bogey five, slipped into a tie forn second with Singh and Allenby on four under.
Luke Donald, back in action after his wife gave birth to their first child two weeks ago (and a month earlier than expected), had a different experience on the final hole.
Donald holed a bunker shot for birdie en route to a two under 70, the same as Padraig Harrington.
World Match Play winner Ian Poulter and Simon Dyson shot 72s, Ross Fisher a 73 and Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell 74s. Westwood’s spoiled his round when he pulled his second shot of the day into the water.
Ross McGowan was round in 76 like stablemate McIlroy, while Oliver Wilson had a triple bogey six in his 78. He went from a greenside bunker into the lake on the short fourth.