ATLANTA – “Take that” is a powerful statement. Not as good as “You’re in,” but at this juncture Paul Casey will take what he can get, which – in very real terms – could be a measure of revenge for the great snub of 2010.
Not that the affable Englishman would admit that his play over the last few weeks has anything to do with the wrong answer from European Ryder Cup captain Colin Montgomerie.
Maybe Casey has too much respect for the matches and the men that will play for God and country next week at Celtic Manor, but if “Cheshire Cat” smiles have literal translations, Casey’s said it all on Thursday at East Lake: Take that.
“It’s always what I wanted to do,” Casey said of the matches after a first-round 66 left him tied atop the leaderboard at the Tour Championship. “I have always just been captivated by it.”
All of which made Monty’s call a few weeks back that much more difficult to stomach. Instead of Casey, who was ranked eighth in the world at the time (he is now seventh), and Justin Rose the Scot went with Padraig Harrington and Luke Donald.
If the two Englishmen feel slighted they have come by it honestly, particularly considering Casey’s solid 3-2-4 record in three previous Ryder Cups and the fact that he’d missed much of the point-earning cycle with an injury. But since that phone call he has ripped off six consecutive rounds in the 60s.
Never underestimate the power of a grudge.
Not that Casey was in much of a mood to get drawn into a war of words with the European skipper.
“I don’t need extra motivation. I’m motivated enough,” he smiled, before adding, “I can’t stop what you print.”
Instead of Celtic Manor and a potential “War in Wales,” Casey’s backup plan is a mountain biking trip to Whistler in Canada. He’s become something of a sprocket-head of late. He even ventured out onto a BMX track near his house in Arizona last week.
“Had a 5-year-old on one side and a 6-year-old on the other,” he said. “It’s incredible.”
Between rides Casey said he would watch next week’s matches because it is “one of the best sporting events in the world.” He even played a practice round on Wednesday at East Lake with Donald, with whom he is currently tied. He concedes, however, he doesn’t know what to expect.
Rose will tune in as well, although he admits it won’t be easy. It shouldn’t be, not for a guy who won two marquee Tour events this year and was a rare highlight paired with Ian Poulter at the 2008 matches.
“It will be the first time I’ve watched one that I could/should have been there,” Rose said. “I thought there were a lot of positives in my favor, rather than cons.”
Rose added the “slash” for emphasis, an indication that he may not be taking Monty’s slight as well as Casey. But then Casey is making a point, be it subliminal or by design.
Since Monty made his call, Casey has finished T-25 at the Deutsche Bank Championship with a final-round 69 and a runner-up finish last week in Chicago that included rounds of 69-69-69-69. Combine those rounds with his Thursday 66 at East Lake and in scorecard speak the rough translation is, “Take that.”
Casey also has a chance to win the FedEx Cup and a $10 million bonus if he finishes second this week and gets a little help from current points leader Matt Kuchar, who struggled to a 2-over round on Thursday and is currently in 19th place.
Call it goofy math. Call it a cosmic make-good. Whatever you call it, the facts are these: Casey can win the cup without actually winning an event in 2010, a testament to good timing and a tough pill for Monty to stomach.
If Monty somehow blows a marked paper advantage and a home-field edge, Monday morning captains across the U.K. will trace the European demise directly back to his picks.
Not that Casey or Rose have any interest in I told you so’s at this point. Next Saturday, when the Ryder Cup will likely be decided with eight team matches, one will be wheeling his way around a rugged Canadian mountain and the other will be enjoying the big Chelsea vs. Arsenal soccer match back home in England.
“I’m a big Chelsea fan and my caddie is an Arsenal guy,” Rose said.
But before then Casey may well have his own for Monty – take that.