Casey still smiling on his way back up rankings

By Rex HoggardMay 30, 2014, 10:46 pm

DUBLIN, Ohio – As clichéd as it may seem, there is no ducking the simple truth that character is measured during the bad times,  not the good.

For Paul Casey, the good times were rolling in the summer of 2009 when he won on the PGA Tour (Shell Houston Open) and European Tour (BMW PGA Championship) within weeks of each other and climbed to third in the Official World Golf Ranking.

His fall was not nearly as meteoric.

There were injuries – too many to count, really – a painful divorce and a debilitating loss of confidence. He would tumble to 169th in the world and miss his first Ryder Cup since 2004.

There were also doubts, constant reminders that he no longer played the game like he’d invented it.

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“It’s very difficult when you've played to a certain level, and then I genuinely had no clue how to play to that level at certain stages and you start to contemplate, ‘Well, why am I doing this? ‘” he said Friday at Muirfield Village. “I felt I was very close to being on the edge of being consumed by it.”

And, of course, there were the dark moments when he thought it might be over. “You can look up the scores, there were lots of moments out there,” he smiled.

But slowly his various injuries, most notably a dislocated right shoulder from a snowboarding accident, healed and his swing began feeling familiar.

Off the course, things also started to fall into place as well. He met Pollyanna Woodward, an English television personality, and began 2014 with news the two were engaged.

The turning point came last year when he won the Irish Open on the European Tour in “brutal” conditions, and he began this year on the PGA Tour on a mission.

During this offseason, Casey enjoyed an epiphany moment on the far side of the practice tee at his home club in Scottsdale, Ariz., with swing coach Peter Kostis.

“He needed one thing to break him out of his slump and ignite his confidence, and it happened on the back end at Whisper Rock,” Kostis said. “I asked him to start whaling on some drivers. That was exciting to him.”

Two weeks ago at the Byron Nelson Championship he showed flashes of the greatness that had made him a staple on those Ryder Cup teams, carding a closing-nine 27 on his way to a 7-under 63 in the second round.

Through 36 holes at the Memorial, the Englishman has just three bogeys and back-to-back 66s for a three-strokes advantage in a pivotal event if he’s going to reclaim his Tour status.

But most importantly he’s smiling again, regardless of score or status. There is a glide in his step that has been missing for some time, a confident indifference that only comes with perspective. That only arrives after one has bottomed out.

“It’s a testament to that guy’s character,” Will MacKenzie said. “That guy is world class. He made me and (William McGirt, who both played alongside Casey for Rounds 1 and 2) look terrible. He’s a man among boys.”

Casey revealed after his round that he and Woodward were expecting the couple’s first child in September. It’s a boy. It’s also a reason to keep the occasional bogey, or even a free-fall from third in the world, in proper perspective.

“I have a very good perspective on things,” Casey said. “I know where everything fits and how things stack up.”

Kostis figured Casey’s swing is nearly as good as it was in 2009 when he seemed unstoppable and this week it’s hard to argue with that assessment. He’s second in the field in greens hit, 18th in fairways hit and 23rd in putting.

Perhaps more importantly, however, he’s figured out golf – be it world class or otherwise – is no way to measure happiness.

“If I have to give something up in terms of family and friends and love and all, then golf would be – I could easily walk away from it from that point of view,” Casey said.

That’s not to say he takes his newfound form lightly. During a recent interview with Casey he became emotional while talking about the Ryder Cup, a testament to how important the biennial matches are to the three-time European team member.

As he exited the press center on Friday he was asked about the timing of his first child’s birth in September. The matches will be played Sept. 23-28 in Scotland.

“He’s due the first week of September,” he smiled, “so the Ryder Cup will be fine.”

So will Casey.

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Rahm (62) fires career low round

By Will GrayJanuary 19, 2018, 12:03 am

The scores were predictably low during the opening round of the CareerBuilder Challenge, where the top-ranked player in the field currently sits atop the standings. Here's how things look after the first day in Palm Springs as Jon Rahm is out to an early advantage:

Leaderboard: Jon Rahm (-10), Austin Cook (-9), Andrew Landry (-9), Jason Kokrak (-9), Brandon Harkins (-8), Martin Piller (-8), Aaron Wise (-8), Beau Hossler (-8)

What it means: Rahm is coming off a runner-up finish two weeks ago at Kapalua, and he picked up right where he left off with a 10-under 62 at La Quinta Country Club. It marked his lowest career round on the PGA Tour, and it gave him a one-shot lead heading to the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Cook is the only player within two shots of Rahm who has won already on Tour.

Round of the day: Rahm got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under, and he made it around La Quinta without dropping a shot. The 62 bettered his previous career low on Tour by two shots and it included an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole to go along with eight birdies.

Best of the rest: Cook was a winner earlier this season at the RSM Classic, and he's now in the mix for trophy No. 2 following a 9-under 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course. Like Rahm, he opened with a seven-hole stretch at 6 under and turned in a scorecard without a bogey. He'll now head to the more difficult Stadium Course for his second round.

Biggest disappointment: Patrick Reed blitzed the three-course rotation in Palm Springs en route to his first career Tour title back in 2014, but he's unlikely to repeat that feat after opening with a 2-over 74 on the Nicklaus Tournament course. Reed made only one birdie against three bogeys and was one of only 32 players in the 156-man field who failed to break par in the opening round.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Rahm deserves the spotlight, as he entered the week as one of the event's headliners and did nothing to lose that billing in the opening round. But the pack of contenders is sure to keep pace, while players like Phil Mickelson (-2) will look to put up a low score in order to build some momentum heading into the weekend.

Shot of the day: Wesley Bryan's 7-under 65 on the Nicklaus Tournament course was helped in large part by an eagle on the par-4 10th, where he holed a 54-degree wedge from 112 yards away. Bryan went on to birdie the next hole amid a five-hole stretch of 5 under play.

Quote of the day: "Shot 10 under par. There's not much more I can ask for." - Rahm

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Recent winner Cook contending at CareerBuilder

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:45 pm

Patton Kizzire is currently the only two-time PGA Tour winner this season, but Austin Cook hopes to join him this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge.

Cook won for the first time in November at the RSM Classic, a victory that catapaulted him from the Tour graduate category into an entirely new echelon. Cook notched a pair of top-25 finishes over the last two weeks in Hawaii, and he's again in the mix after an opening 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course left him one shot behind Jon Rahm.

"Today was great," Cook told reporters. "The conditions were perfect, but I always loved desert golf and I was just hitting the ball well and seeing good lines on the greens and hitting good putts."

Cook got off to a fast start, playing his first seven holes in 6 under highlighted by an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole. He briefly entertained the notion of a sub-60 round after birdies on Nos. 10 and 11 before closing with six pars and a birdie.

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Cook was a relative unknown before his victory at Sea Island earlier this season, but now with the flexibility and confidence afforded by a win he hopes to build on his burgeoning momentum this week in California.

"That was a big, proud moment for myself, knowing that I can finish a tournament," Cook said. "I think it was one of those things that I've proven to myself that now I can do it, and it just meant the world to me."

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Photo: Fleetwood's phone cover is picture of Bjorn

By Jason CrookJanuary 18, 2018, 11:40 pm

There's phone covers and then there are Phone Covers.

Paul Casey has himself a Phone Cover, showing off the protective case that features a picture of his wife at last year's U.S. Open.

Now, it appears, Tommy Fleetwood has joined the movement.

Fleetwood, last year's season-long Race to Dubai winner, has a phone cover with a picture of Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn on it. And not even a current Thomas Bjorn. This is a young Bjorn. A hair-having Bjorn.


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The 26-year-old is a virtual lock for this year's European Ryder Cup team, but just in case, he's carrying around a phone with a picture of the team captain attached to the back of it.

It's a bold strategy, Cotton. Let's see if it pays off for him.

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Mickelson starts fast, fades to 70 at La Quinta

By Will GrayJanuary 18, 2018, 11:07 pm

Phil Mickelson got off to a fast start in his first competitive round of 2018 - for six holes, at least.

The 47-year-old is making his first start since the WGC-HSBC Champions this week at the CareerBuilder Challenge, and only his third competitive appearance since the BMW Championship in September. Four birdies over his first six holes indicated that a strong opener might be in the cards, but Mickelson played his subsequent holes in 2 over.

It added up to a 2-under 70 at La Quinta Country Club, typically the easiest of the three courses in rotation this week, and left Mickelson eight shots behind Jon Rahm.

"It was fun to get back out and be competitive," Mickelson told reporters. "I for some reason am stuck on 70 here at La Quinta, whether I get off to a good start or a bad one, I end up shooting the same score."

Full-field scores from the Career Builder Challenge

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Mickelson stunted his momentum with a tee shot out of bounds on the par-4 eighth hole, but he managed to save bogey and otherwise drove the ball relatively well. Instead, he pointed to his normally reliable iron play as the culprit for his back-nine backslide on a day when more than 120 players in the 156-man field broke par.

Mickelson will now head to the Nicklaus Tournament Course with the Stadium Course on tap for Saturday's third round. While there were several low scores Thursday at La Quinta, Mickelson remains bullish about the birdie opportunities that still lie ahead.

"This isn't the course where I go low on," Mickelson said. "I feel more comfortable on Stadium and Nicklaus. Neither of them are nearly as tight and I tend to score a lot lower on those other two than I do here, historically."