Friday 19 January 2018

Casey keeps cool under fire to recover from dreaded 'snowman'

Paul Casey: Setting early pace. Photo: AP
Paul Casey: Setting early pace. Photo: AP

Brian Keogh at Erin Hills

A snowman would normally but the freeze on any US Open hot streak but Paul Casey simply shrugged it off and scorched into the clubhouse lead at Erin Hills.

The 39-year-old Englishman has never shied away from doing things his way but even by his standards his gallop the top was as a serious signal of his intent to add a Major to his 17 worldwide wins.

The world No 14 might not have won since 2014, when he gave up his European Tour membership and his chance of playing under Darren Clarke at Hazeltine National in Minnesota.

But recovering from a triple-bogey eight his fifth hole - aka the dreaded snowman - and a bogey at his seventh with five consecutive birdies to add a 71 to his opening 66 must go down as one of the great US Open comebacks.

It left the Englishman in a share of the lead and one shot ahead of first round leader Rickie Fowler who followed his 65 with a 73 yesterday.

Casey birdied his second hole of the day to tie for the lead, bogeyed the third to go back to six-under before he laid up into the heavy rough at the 14th and took four more shots to get the ball on the green.

Two putts later he was pencilling in an eight, quickly followed by a bogey five that sent him slithering back to two under par. Was he flustered? If he was, he wasn't letting on.

Asked if his caddie Johnny McLaren had said anything after the triple-bogey, Casey joked: "No, I asked him if he was all right because he was incredibly quiet. And he was like, 'Oh, fine, I'm good'. Then he says, 'Are you all right?' And I said, 'Yeah'."

Casey proved it too with a stunning run of red figures.

After rolling in a 12-footer at the 17th, he pitched stone dead from just short at the par-five 18th to get back to four-under, then hit a 120-yard wedge to two feet at the first.

He followed that by making a 12 footer at the tricky second before rounding off his five-in-a-row birdie run with a stunning 240-yard approach to 10 feet at the third.

After closing with six straight pars, it left him as joint leader going into the weekend on seven under, alongside Brian Harman, Tommy Fleetwood and Brooks Koepka.

"It feels good, yeah. Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an eight on the card, but I'm a pretty happy man," said Casey, who admitted to being "excited" by his position, his game-plan and his form. "It was a bit of a roller coaster."

"It was a good display, all my own fault, but a good display of what can happen if you get out of position on this golf course, which is what I did on 14."

Asked how he might have responded to a triple-bogey eight earlier in his career, he admitted that his years of experience stood to him.

"Yes, there are times I would have rebounded like that, but maybe not as calmly," said Casey, who admits he has changed as a person since finding a new partner and becoming a father.

"I was upset with the score I had made, but it had, in no way, any effect on my attitude or how I was going to then approach the rest of the round or the next shot. Part of that is just age, and part I'll give credit to Johnny McLaren, credit to my wife and my little boy."

Irish Independent

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