PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Entering the year, Englishman Paul Casey made the difficult decision to abandon his European Tour membership, focusing instead on a full schedule on the PGA Tour.
So far, so good.
One week after losing in a playoff at the Northern Trust Open, Casey is again in contention heading into Monday’s conclusion at the Honda Classic. After playing 27 holes Sunday, he shares the lead at 7 under alongside countryman Ian Poulter. Patrick Reed is a shot behind.
“Apart from the obvious statement, a long day. More enjoyable day,” Casey said. “The first three days (were) incredibly tough. The draw I had, which a lot of guys had, the early/late was brutal. I found it extremely difficult so I was looking forward to just playing in some sunshine.”
Casey was 1 under through 36 holes, and even after a 2-under 68 he began the final round six shots behind Poulter. He played the first nine holes of his final round in 4 under, though, capping his afternoon with a 6-foot birdie at No. 9 to grab a share of the lead.
“Today right off the blocks I made the putts when I needed to,” he said. “The putter seems to be working nicely, which is the difference why I’ve snuck up on that leaderboard.”
Casey now makes his home in Arizona with his wife and son, who was born last year. He said that the decision to focus solely on the PGA Tour – and limit his cross-continental travel in the process – has been a “massive” factor in his early success.
“Although I dearly miss playing the European Tour, and I’ll make a couple of appearances this year, and it’s a tour that’s incredibly dear to my heart, I’m not missing that travel,” he said. “You look at some of these guys, Francesco (Molinari) or others who are doing what I did for a long, long time…It’s very difficult to do. I don’t envy their position, and I’m happy in my position.”
Casey came up short last week at Riviera, and was eliminated on the second extra hole before James Hahn beat Dustin Johnson one hole later. Monday at the Honda Classic, Casey hopes to win for the first time in the U.S. since the 2009 Shell Houston Open.
“Very ready to win. I’m eager to win,” he said. “I feel like I’m playing good golf, and there are no obstacles in the way. Everything’s great on and off the golf course. No two tours to worry about. There’s just nothing standing there, nothing that’s distracting me, which is a great feeling to have.”