Injury-hit Casey likes his chances

Paul Casey will need to continue treatment for his injuries this week, but nevertheless likes his Masters chances.

Paul Casey will continue having treatment for his shoulder and rib injuries at The Masters this week and might be short of a little puff after missing the defence of his Houston Open title last week, but he nevertheless likes his chances of winning his first major.
While it is all systems go for Lee Westwood and Ian Poulter, England’s other two players in the world top 10, Casey is still some way from being fully fit.
Europe’s top three – not one of whom has won a major yet – were practice partners yesterday, although for Poulter it was only nine holes so he could watch Arsenal’s Champions League game.
Casey and Westwood completed the round in the scorching heat, but Casey admitted he was “a bit stiff” by the end and was feeling his legs.
“It was great for probably 13 or 14 holes, but then I got a bit tired,” he told Press Association Sport.
“It’s probably because I didn’t play last week.”
Augusta’s hills make it one of the toughest walking courses, even more so in extreme temperatures, and he said: “I would not want to play 36 holes (a day) round here.
“As for the shoulder, I’m having ultrasound and cold laser at nights, anti-inflammatories, massage – and that will continue all week.”
Last summer, of course, Casey tore a rib muscle just before The Open and was still not ready to play in the US PGA a month later.
“I’ve come to realise it’s clearly about getting older.” added the 32-year-old.
“I’m not overly-excited about my physical state, but from a mental state, which has probably been the thing that has not been my strongest asset in the past, I’m much more mature than two years ago.
“It’s so annoying I don’t quite have the ball-striking I did then, but I still have my length and I feel good about my chances, I really do.
“This is a course where you need to be incredibly patient and plot your way round like a chess game.”
He was planning only nine more holes on the final day of practice today, plus the fun par-three competition that nearly all the players take part in.
Casey admitted that Westwood and Poulter would have beaten him yesterday, so he was glad he left the other two to have a money match on the front nine.
“Both were making birdies, but Westy took the cash,” he said. “He’s playing very well and we both hit it longer than Ian, but he’s got such a good short game and his putting is phenomenal.”
It is now thought that Casey’s problem of a week ago might have been caused by not taking in enough fluids.
He said: “Water is almost like the oil for the muscles. We don’t know if the muscles tightened up and a rib slipped out of place or the rib slipped from sleeping funny or something and then the muscle spasmed.”
Westwood, who suffered briefly in Houston as well when he did not take in enough carbohydrates in the heat, is back to health – and despite being an asthmatic, he is not feeling any ill-effects from the high pollen levels in Augusta.
Cars need washing every day at the moment because of the pollen situation, but it is caddie Billy Foster who is struggling with it and not the world number four.
“I’m feeling good and playing well,” said Westwood, who has finished third in the last two majors.
This looks a great chance to go two better with Tiger Woods having been out of the game for nearly five months and Phil Mickelson starting the season sluggishly.
“It should be good, but I can’t worry about anybody else,” stated the 36-year-old from Worksop.
“You’ve just got to concentrate on what you’re doing. Play your own game and see how it goes, but I’m hitting it all right, the short game’s good and the putting’s good.”
He also has the experience of 10 previous Masters. “It certainly helps to have a lot here, there’s no doubt about that,” he said.
“But you always learn little things because they keep changing stuff and it’s playing a lot firmer.
“It must be a good 12 years since it’s been like this and I love it. It plays tougher and it helps if you have a high ball flight.”
Poulter did not have the best of days, of course, with Westwood beating him and then Barcelona thrashing his beloved Arsenal, but he did not view being drawn in the group ahead of Woods as a triple whammy.
With everyone trying to get in position to see the world number one at 1.42pm local time there could be more distractions than normal for Poulter.
But the World Match Play champion insisted: “I don’t see it being any problem at all.
“There’s only going to be 20,000 people, not 60-70,000. It will be busy, but not crazy.
“They are very respectful fans here and I don’t mind where I play. I’ll be concentrating on my job and that’s all I’m worried about.
“I’m as ready as I’m ever going to be. I’ve just had two weeks off, so I’m rested, and I’ve done my homework.
“Westy’s playing very, very, very solid. No bogeys, a few birdies – and a couple of dollars.”