It may have taken him 43 years, but Paul Casey believes he has finally found the “sweet spot” between ambition and attitude following his brilliant performance in the US PGA Championship.
Casey carded a superb final round of 66 at Harding Park and it took an inspired display from Collin Morikawa to deny him a first major title, the 23-year-old chipping in for a birdie on the 14th and making a spectacular eagle two holes later in a closing 64.
A tie for second place with 54-hole leader Dustin Johnson is Casey’s best result in a major on his 64th attempt and bodes well for his chances in this season’s two remaining majors at Winged Foot and Augusta National.
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The 43-year-old finished 15th when Winged Foot previously staged the US Open in 2006 and has recorded five top-10 finishes in the Masters, including three in a row from 2015-17.
Asked why he looked so comfortable in posting four sub-70 scores at Harding Park, Casey said: “Probably because I’ve spent three months where I didn’t touch a golf club, hanging out with my kids, my family at home.
“Then I started practising, but even those four-plus months I spent at home, I’m thinking a lot you know, figuring out what’s important to me.
“When I’m out here, I think those of you who come out and talk to me a lot, you know this isn’t the most important thing in my life. Today (Sunday) was just sort of cruise around the golf course and have a great time.
“I’ve not played great golf so far this season, so anything was going to be a bonus on where I was a week ago or two weeks ago. So I was just out there kind of having a good time.
“But I do think I’m in a sweet spot. It’s taken me 43 years to get there, but yeah, pretty chilled out, know what I’m capable of and enjoying my golf.”
Casey gave up his European Tour membership in 2015 in order to concentrate on getting back inside the world’s top 50 and devote time to his young family following the birth of first son Lex.
The move paid off and Casey held off Tiger Woods to win his first PGA Tour title since 2009 in the Valspar Championship in March 2018, the kind of form which earned him a Ryder Cup wild card from Europe captain Thomas Bjorn.
Casey thought at the time that could well be his last appearance in the biennial contest and although his performance in San Francisco will not count towards Ryder Cup qualifying due to the event being pushed back to 2021, the world number 19 may well be part of the European side in Italy.