They had grown up together playing amateur golf, but at least recently their careers had taken different trajectories. Rose, 32, has evolved into a world-class player, the world No. 3, and now a major champion. Casey, 35, meanwhile, has been plagued by injuries the past several years, most recently a dislocated shoulder in winter 2011, and has slipped from third in the world to No. 169, his worst ranking in 12 years. To get to Merion, where Rose won by two shots, Casey needed to advance through sectional qualifying.
But with a three-shot victory Sunday at The Irish Open, Casey is back inside the top 100 in the world and, more importantly, relevant once more. This was his 12th career European Tour title, and his first on the circuit since the Volvo Golf Champions in January 2011.
“Incredibly sweet,” he said afterward. “When that (final) putt went in, half of it was relief, and half of it was the satisfaction of playing a great round of golf today.”
A recent snowboarding accident resulted in a disclocated shoulder and essentially cost him his 2012 season. Entering this week, he had recorded just one top 10 in his last 15 worldwide starts. But on Sunday he made five birdies in a six-hole stretch around the turn, dropped shots on Nos. 15 and 16, and poured in a 50-foot eagle putt on the final green to shoot 67 and 14-under 274.
His schedule, he said, should now be a little less “up in the air.” By virtue of this victory Casey has earned a spot in the HSBC Champions, and Dubai, and many of the big-money, end-of-the-year events.
“I can relax a little bit more now,” he said. “Focus on my game, put the pedal down and try and collect a few more trophies.”