MAJOR REASSESSMENT BOOSTS CASEY
Paul Casey is refreshingly honest when summing up his performance in major championships before this season.
Paul Casey is refreshingly honest when summing up his performances in major championships before this season.
“Crap,” is how the Ryder Cup star puts it bluntly, which does seem a little harsh when a sixth-place finish on his US Masters debut in 2004 is taken into account.
However, that performance at Augusta aside, it is hard to disagree with Casey’s assessment when his 15 other major appearances before 2007 resulted in nine missed cuts and a withdrawal from the 2005 US Open after an opening round of 85.
Not a good return for one of the world’s best players who had enjoyed a stellar amateur career, won a European Tour title in his first full season as a professional, added the World Cup for England with Luke Donald and played on two winning Ryder Cup sides.
So what is behind finishes of 10th in the Masters and US Open and a creditable 27th in the Open in his first tournament for a month following a back injury?
“I think it’s down to accepting they are no different from other events,” Casey told PA Sport ahead of the final major of the year, the USPGA at Southern Hills in Oklahoma.
“The score that wins them is always higher. Okay the golf course is tougher but you don’t actually have to play better golf to win a major.
“There’s a lot of other things, it’s the pressure and everything that comes outside, that’s why majors are so difficult to win. I’ve approached majors for the last year and a half or so as I approach any other event.
“The goal is to win majors and I feel I can do it. The game has to click and I have to stay patient, but there is no reason why I can’t be up there like everybody else. Winning a golf event is still winning a golf event.
“Majors are bigger and the things you experience are much greater but in general it’s the same stuff. I’ve been very focused at the majors this year, trying to base the rest of the season around those and give myself time and make sure I’m rested.
“I’ve won events all over the world – not in the States yet – and no majors. Without taking away focus from the European Tour I’ve won the World Cup, HSBC Match Play (and its £1million first prize), other tour events, the Ryder Cup.
“The only thing left now is majors. That’s the plan now for the next 10, 15 years, however long I keep playing.”
Speaking just days after Padraig Harrington’s Open victory at Carnoustie, Casey also admitted his Ryder Cup team-mate’s triumph, and the US Open win of New Zealand’s Michael Campbell in 2005, provide a major confidence boost.
“It is a factor,” added the 30-year-old, who celebrated his birthday on third-round day at Carnoustie.
“I get to play with them a lot, I only get to play with Tiger Woods a handful of times a year if I’m lucky.
“You can’t really chat to Tiger while you’re on the way round but with the likes of Cambo and Harrington they are guys I hang out with, have dinner with and were also very, very supportive of me when I was playing crap golf.
“They both came up to me and gave me advice and patted me on the back so I’m going to tap into them as much as I can to watch what they’re doing differently, why have they won majors?
“I know how my game stacks up so I feel I’m on the right track so it’s just a question of, hopefully, when.
“Harrington is the first European major winner there has been since I’ve been on tour, it’s got to help. He’s one of my mates. With a bit of luck the floodgates will open. Whenever any of my other mates win, whether it’s Howler (David Howell) or Luke (Donald), I see it as a positive boost.
“It’s a bit of encouragement and pushes me and makes me work harder. Plus it’s a good excuse for a party!”
Whether Casey will be celebrating or drowning his sorrows at Southern Hills, where Retief Goosen won the US Open in 2001, remains to be seen.
But he admits he will be at something of a disadvantage having never played the course before.
“I’ve not played it, I know nothing about it. I’ve never even been to Oklahoma. I know it’s just above Texas and they have tornados!” he joked.
“It would be nice to put myself in contention and better the 10th places at the Masters and US Open.
“It’s a bit of an unknown quantity because I don’t know the golf course. I’ve done a good job of preparing for the others this year – I visited all three venues and played practice rounds prior to the week starting.
“This one just hasn’t worked out because the schedule has been so hectic. So a slight disadvantage there but I do know it’s going to be extremely hot, and although I’m not used to the humidity – where I live in Arizona is very dry – I feel I can deal with the heat and I’m fitter now than I’ve even been before so that might be an advantage.”
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