SHEBOYGAN, Wis. – Given another chance to play in the final group at a major championship on a Sunday afternoon, Paul Casey knows one thing he’d do differently.
“Not hit it in a bush on No. 12,” he said with a grin on Tuesday while preparing for this week’s U.S. PGA Championship.
Casey may not have been able to catch British Open winner Louis Oosthuizen last month at St. Andrews but his hopes of becoming the first Englishman to lift the claret jug since Nick Faldo in 1992 disappeared in that gorse bush that swallowed his shot off the 12th tee.
With no way to hit out of the thick bushes, Casey had to take a penalty drop. He needed five more shots for a triple-bogey 7 that turned what had been a four-shot deficit into eight. He wound up tied for third, eight strokes behind Oosthuizen.
“I really wouldn’t do anything different. I felt I played very good golf. Louis played brilliant golf,” Casey said. “The real turning point for me was not making putts on the 18th on Saturday and then missing the birdie putt on No. 1 and the par putt on No. 2 (on Sunday). If you change those three shots, turn those around, then suddenly I’ve put a lot of pressure on Louis and maybe it’s a different story.
“But the way I hit the ball and the way I conducted myself, I was happy with it.”
Despite the ugly finish, Casey’s performance at the British Open showed he’s fully recovered from the rib injury last year that derailed his game. After climbing to No. 3 in the world last summer, he strained a rib muscle the week before the British Open. After tying for 47th at Turnberry, he took time off, only to tear the muscle at the Bridgestone Invitational.
He didn’t play another full round for two months until the World Match Play Championship in October, when he lost all three of his rounds.
Casey has rebounded with five top 10 finishes this year, but he still isn’t completely happy with the state of his game. He missed the cut at the Canadian Open, and wasn’t a factor in tying for 22nd last week at Bridgestone.
“I want to finish off the season with victories, and I’ve got a lot of things to work on in all aspects of the game,” Casey said. “I’m trying to work on them and trying to play good golf at the same time, which is a difficult thing to do.”
His game doesn’t need major changes, Casey said. But after so much time off, he needs to spend time sharpening his shots – time he hasn’t been able to put in.
“When I play my best, I move the golf ball around a lot. I haven’t had great control, hitting the usual shape or moving the golf ball around, cuts and draws off the tee, like I usually do,” he said. “I need to build that confidence. Just a few hours on the range to build that confidence back up, and I should be fine.”