He should beard the lion in its own den.
That is to say he should play in the FBR Open next month and he should take the heat with a smile. When he gets to the par-3 16th at the TPC of Scottsdale he should welcome the ridicule. He should wear a shirt that says: Im more annoying than you are. He should step onto the tee box, pull a white flag out of his bag and wave it in mock surrender.
Before he hits his first tee ball on Thursday, he should grab the microphone from the announcer and tell the world how much he loves America. He should also reveal that every birdie he makes on the PGA Tour in 2005 will be worth $250 to a cause that supports our fighting men in the Middle East.
In short, Casey needs to do a little, good, old-fashioned damage control.
Many will disagree with this. They will argue that Englishman Casey was just exercising his rights of free speech last year when he attacked Americans and their customs in an interview published in a London newspaper.
Of course that is technically correct. But the larger issue here is Caseys future as a symbol. He need look no farther than Colin Montgomerie to find an example of a player who never learned how to turn a crowd in his favor.
Golf is hard enough. At the professional level the pressures can be excruciatingly difficult. Montgomerie chose to take the fans on when they heckled him. They sensed his rabbit ears. Things spiraled downhill.
By making a preemptive strike against those who are waiting to jump him from outside the ropes, Casey could actually wind up being a fan favorite. Americans love people who make mistakes and own up to them. They also have a place in their heart for athletes willing to poke a little fun at themselves.
The context here is the news out of Arizona, where Casey owns a home, that he has withdrawn from the FBR Open. This after Casey shot 75-74 at the Sony Open last week to miss the cut in his first 2005 tournament. Those scores, by the way, matched the ones turned in by Michelle Wie, a 15-year-old female.
A Casey spokesman said the golfer is still determining his 2005 schedule. The spokesman also pointed out that Casey, who recently left Titleist and signed with Nike, is still getting used to his new equipment. The spokesman added that there is still time for Casey to re-enter the FBR Open.
Remember, Casey played his college golf at nearby Arizona State. Not everybody in the huge crowds at the TPC of Scottsdale will be against him. Nobody wants or needs to have a public relations monkey on his back for an entire career.
I respectfully submit that Brit Montgomerie would have won at least one major championship if he had cultivated a relationship with American golf fans. Instead he wore a hair shirt that too often turned his face beet red.
Play in the FBR Open, Paul Casey. Let the fans have some fun at your expense. Laugh along with the taunts and the barbs. Get this thing behind you.
Then your future, as Yogi Berra might say, will be in front of you.
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