There is making a journey worthwhile and then there is the emphatic statement as delivered by Paul Casey having undertaken a 16-hour flight to reach the Dubai Desert Classic. The Englishman eased to victory, his 15th on the European Tour, by four shots.
Padraig Harrington was among those waiting to congratulate Casey and no wonder. It would be a major shock if Casey is not part of Harrington’s European Ryder Cup contingent in the autumn at Whistling Straits. “Ryder Cups are something special,” Casey said with the smile of experience.
Something of a second coming in Casey’s career continues to deliver the kind of performances which suggest major success may not continue to elude him. It isn’t lost on the 43-year-old that a trip to Augusta National, where he has a strong record, now flickers on the horizon.
“I need a bit of help,” said Casey in respect of Masters chances. “You look at Dustin Johnson or Rory McIlroy. Rory’s got a lot of pressure on him but his game is unbelievable. There will be a lot of talk about Bryson DeChambeau, obviously, with his length. I need a bit of help from those guys, as well, don’t I? Let’s be honest, if I put my best golf against them, I’m going to get beaten. But I’ve got a good chance. The consequences are kind of irrelevant, so why not go for it?” Well, indeed.
Casey’s closing round of 70 at the Emirates Club saw him reach 17 under par. Brandon Stone nipped into second ahead of Robert MacIntyre, who slipped to a 74 in Casey’s company. The Scot’s disappointment can be partly offset by a rise into the world’s top 50 which, if maintained until late March, would afford him a Masters debut. “Paul was brilliant,” MacIntyre said. “He stuck to his own game, he played great, he controlled himself. I’ve just got to look up to that.
“I just have to keep giving myself chances. If I keep giving myself these chances, I’m going to bundle over the line again at some point.”
Casey reached No 3 in the world in 2009 but his recent resurgence has afforded him more pleasure. “I’m incredibly happy at home,” Casey added. “I’ve got a great wife, kids, and I guess I kind of understand where golf kind of sits in my life and its level of importance. I’m acutely aware, certainly for the last 10 months or so, of how fortunate I am.
“I don’t want to say content, that’s the wrong word, but I feel kind of fine with where I’m at and that doesn’t mean I’m soft. It actually means I’m pushing on and I’m at peace with whatever happens in terms of my golf career from here on.”
Harrington, now 49, impressively tied sixth with Sergio García and Bernd Wiesberger. Tyrrell Hatton backed up last weekend’s win in Abu Dhabi with a share of 22nd. Justin Rose, who had high hopes of a decent finish after 54 holes, instead carded a closing 77 for a tie of 35th.