Under the radar, Casey has destination in mind

With all the talk that Tiger Woods might play this week in the Wells Fargo Championship (he won’t), Jim Furyk coming back from wrist surgery and defending Rory McIlroy trying to win at Quail Hollow for the third time, Paul Casey comes in under the radar.

Casey, however, certainly could be in the mix, as his recent play includes a tie for fourth in the Masters, a tie for ninth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and solo seventh in the WGC-Cadillac Championship.

Casey has won 13 times around the world in his career, but not since the 2014 KLM Open. He looks to be headed in the right direction again after hooking up with John McLaren, who caddied for Luke Donald when Donald rose to No. 1 in the World Golf Rankings.

“John has been absolutely magnificent on the bag since he started,” said Casey, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2009 Shell Houston Open, although he came close last year when he lost in playoffs at the Northern Trust Open and the Travelers Championship.

“We feel like some of the work we have done together has already paid off. … It is a fine-tuning exercise. I don’t want to mess up what I was doing last year, and I want to refine the rest of it. There were a huge number of positives from 2015. I did a lot of good stuff, so I want to build on that.”

The 38-year-old Englishman, who was No. 3 in the world in 2009, won 13 times on the European Tour in 13 seasons and has played for Europe in three Ryder Cups.

However, Casey won’t be on the Euro team for the Ryder Cup later this year at Hazeltine because he quit his home tour last year and blasted officials when they changed the qualifying rules. Or at least they said they did.

Instead of having to play in 13 Euro Tour events to have a chance to make the team, the number was changed to five. However, the four majors and four World Golf Championships don’t count anymore, so nothing really changed.

“I was really frustrated when I read (European Tour chief executive officer) Keith Pelley’s press release,” Casey told the Times of London. “It was infuriating actually. He was saying he had done everything he could to make it easier for Paul Casey to play the European Tour. Keith Pelley — you did not.

“I know the new rules help those outside the top 50. But I’m inside the top 50 and so playing five outside the WGCs and the majors is pretty much exactly the same as what they wanted from guys in my position before the rule change. …

“Last time I looked, I was European, so that should be enough to make me eligible (for the Ryder Cup team).”

It is not that the European team couldn’t use him, because Casey has a 41-30-7 career record in match play, won the 2006 World Match Play Championship and has finished second twice in what is now the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship.

That record includes a 3-2-4 mark in the Ryder Cup, including 1-1-1 in singles.

“I’m in the same place I am when I made the decision, which is taking care of the family and the priority is they are the No. 1 priority,” said Casey, who captured what was then the Pacific 10 Conference Championship three times when he was at Arizona State.

“If my position changes, which I’d like it to, maybe a major victory or something like that, you know, I’ll readdress it. And if the number changes, I will readdress it.

“But the number didn’t change from last year, and so I have to give my focus to my family.”

Casey lives in Scottsdale, Ariz., with his wife, Pollyanna, and their young son, Lex, so he doesn’t want to play as much of an international schedule as he once did.

However, if he can’t play for Europe, he wants to play for Great Britain in the Olympic Games this summer.

Great Britain, or any other country, can send four players to Rio de Janeiro if the players are ranked inside the top 15 of the World Golf Rankings.

Masters champion Danny Willett is No. 9, Justin Rose is No. 10, Casey is No. 23, Andy Sullivan is No. 33, Lee Westwood is No. 36 and Matthew Fitzpatrick was No. 41.

“It would be great if there were three or four of us, that would be awesome,” said Casey, who won the English Amateur in 1999 and 2000. “Danny is playing some tremendous golf. I have some catching up to do. Even in an individual capacity, it would be tremendous, and the more of us, the better chance we have of picking up medals.

“I always watched the Olympics growing up. I love it, the fact you have only one chance every four years to win a medal. … Representing your country (in the Ryder Cup) to this point has been the biggest thing I have done.

“I’m a massive fan of watching legends, going back to the Daley Thompson days. … I’m fully in for the Olympics. I want the Olympic Village, the (Great Britain) track suit, I want everything.”

And winning at Quail Hollow just might get him a ticket to Rio.

–Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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