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Casey's lucky break?

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Ben Dirs | 23:14 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

I've always wanted to give a professional golfer a bit of advice. So I would like to thank Paul Casey, who was busy "ripping his right arm out of its socket" on a mountain in Colorado last Christmas, for providing me with the opportunity.

"Maybe you should think about jacking in the snowboarding?" I suggested.

"I need to stop it, don't I?" said Casey, who is set for his eighth Masters appearance on Thursday. But I'm not entirely convinced my suggestion hit home. "I probably will - at least maybe until next year."

Blase? Maybe. But when you've had your entire previous season blighted by something as obscure and absurd-sounding as 'turf toe', you're liable to lean towards the fatalistic.

The ailment, which meant Casey had trouble getting round the course, let alone stringing four tournament-winning rounds together, saw the 34-year-old slide down the rankings to 31st in the world, from a career-high third in 2009.

Casey, so often cited as the cream of a bumper crop of British golfers to emerge since the new millennium, had curdled.

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His body "beaten up", "a bit bored, a bit burned out, needing a break", Casey found himself playing bit parts on golf's global stage. Meanwhile, Luke Donald, Casey's old mucker from their Walker Cup days, was the man to plant the flag of St George at the summit of the sport.

Then came the Colorado calamity, which kept him on the sidelines for almost three months.

"It's that ego thing," said Casey. "Suddenly you're not being asked that question, 'are you one of the favourites to win the Masters this year?' You're down the list, not even recognised as one of the guys who's got a chance.

"Luke, Justin [Rose], Rory [McIlroy] - they're my mates so it's fun to watch. But I wish I was there, to pit myself against them and see how I stack up."

If this makes Casey sound wistful, resigned even, he is anything but.

"I'm excited again, hungry, keen to practise," he said. "I forgot how much I love the game of golf and I really wanted it back. Even with the injuries, I'm still better than most of the guys out there. And when I'm playing the golf I'm capable of I've got a much better chance than most of winning a major.

"I know how good I've been and I think I can be better than I've been before.

"The game's not there yet. I've got to sharpen it up and the swing isn't quite repetitive. But I feel like I can swing it like I could a few years ago, back in 2009 [when Casey won three of his 13 professional titles, including his sole victory on the US PGA Tour]."

Casey has played only three tournaments since his comeback, finishing 51st at Doral (where fellow Englishman Rose triumphed) before missing the cut in Florida (where Donald prevailed to replace McIlroy as world number one) and Houston.

But the man they call Popeye - not because of his spinach intake, but on account of the size of his forearms - remains punchy about his chances at Augusta.

"I love the place, and if you enjoy a golf course then you're going to play well on it," he said.

"There are only two places that make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up - one is St Andrews and the other is Augusta. St Andrews is incredibly pure, natural golf. Augusta is at the other end of the spectrum: man taking the land and creating something beautiful and challenging.

"You stand there on the 12th tee and you're looking at Amen Corner - the 11th green to the left, 13th fairway to your right, 12th green in front of you - and you think to yourself: 'This is absolutely gorgeous.' And then you think: 'Bloody hell, how am I going to hit this green?'

"There's danger everywhere, it takes precision to another level. The examination you're given as a golfer is unlike any other - all that beauty hides the difficulty beneath. Augusta is one of those courses that if you've got a weakness, it will highlight it in a heartbeat. But I still believe I can turn it on, go out there and take all the money off my mates.

"Do I think I will? Yes. But realistically, maybe it's going to take another month, or even six months, for me to really sharpen up my game and for everything to really click. You know what form is like, you can't control it. But I hope it all clicks this week."

And if you were thinking about having a Masters punt, make sure to take into account the heft of a player's legs.

"It sounds daft, but you need strong legs around Augusta, because of all the angles you have to play off," said Casey. "Luckily, my calves are even bigger than my forearms."


  • Comment number 1.

    It'll would be nice to see Casey on form and competing again, but I think I'll save my pennies and back someone else this week. But it won't be Donald, Westwood, or Rose - I think previous performances at Augusta are more telling than current world standings or any recent successes. McIlroy...who knows? Depends if he can keep calm on putts within 6 feet. Tiger will be steady - top 10. But the winner is more likely to be someone no-one's considering, someone who just really enjoys the course. Obviously, I have no idea who that might be, but here's my prediction - A Quiros or Cabrera to lead after day 1 with a silly score, someone like Jason Day after 3 rounds, and then... (Coughs) win it. What do you think?

  • Comment number 2.

    Another good blog. Seems so sad that the BBC is going to have even less golf in future. Where do you see Sports/Golf on the BBC?

  • Comment number 3.

    Like you Pendafad I hope Casey comes back better than ever, but I can't see it happening this week. My money is going on Mickelson. A fabulous record at Augusta, played well last week without putting himself under too much pressure, blew Tiger away last time they played together and very generous odds. Tiger and Rory at 5-1 while Mickelson is 13s? Makes no sense. Little savers on Cabrera - coming into form at the right time and the perfect game for Augusta; Schwartzel - people do defend well at Augusta; Poulter (might have been a mistake that one).

    But who knows...

  • Comment number 4.

    My money is on Luke Donald; just feel he has been getting even better in every area of his play

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm backing Dufner, Watney, Mickelson or Cink (Huge odds). McIlroy is Europe's best hope.

  • Comment number 6.

    It would be great to see Casy come back to his best and add another European to fight at the top of the rankings. Just can't see it happening this season though. Westwood, Keegan Bradley and Cabrera are my picks for this week. Lee has been slightly unlucky around Augusta before running into an on fire Mickelson a couple of years ago. IF he can sink his fair share of putts I think he's good value at 20's having shown enough good form so far this season when he'll have had his eye on this week since the end of last season. Bradley's form speaks for itself and having backed Cabrera at 125/1 for both his major wins he owes me nothing and will get a few of my quid everytime he tee's it up in a major, his show of some form in Houston just tops it off. Come on Westy, can't wait.

  • Comment number 7.

    I think Adam Scott will be one to watch this week, he did well at the end of last year, has had good finishes here in the past and now has a man on the bag who will be able to steer him in the right direction.

  • Comment number 8.

    Westwood is starting to play himself back into form, and he was mighty close a couple of years ago before Mickelson pulled out an inspired final round. I'd rather see him win a major before Donald, but I think McIlroy will probably beat them both. Whether that's enough to win the title is another matter. Adam Scott has to be considered a good bet as well.

  • Comment number 9.

    Paul Casey is fast approaching his 35th birthday; his past year has been a waste and comes hard on the heels of missing out on the Ryder Cup team.
    His brilliant future is slipping inexorably behind him; if he doesn't completely recommit himself he could well wake up in a few years' time and wonder where it all went wrong.
    And he may not care about that, but he is now longer fully exempt on the PGA Tour and is sure to continue his freefall down the rankings unless he finds some form fast. Not yet qualified for The Players Championship, the US Open, the WGC Bridgestone or the PGA Championship.

  • Comment number 10.

    I have to agree with @kwiniaskagolfer here, why is Paul Casey even part of the conversation when there are so many other UK golfers in form at the moment? McDowell, Mcilroy, Rose and Donald? The BBC always drag him out at the Masters for some reason - probably because the rest of his British colleagues are a bit less fond of telling everyone how fantastic they think they are!

  • Comment number 11.

    good player but if he's close on Sunday he'll bottle it

  • Comment number 12.

    I don't want to get my hopes up, however much it looks as though we have the best chance to have an English winner for a while...


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