When you haven’t won a PGA Tour event in nine years or a tournament anywhere in the world since 2014, being the most consistent check casher doesn’t qualify as aspirational.
With a world’s best consecutive cuts made streak of 27 events dating back to the 2017 Sony Open in Hawaii, Paul Casey wasn’t exactly puffing his chest out among his peers.
“Leading the tour in cuts made is not actually the stat you want to lead,” Casey said. “It makes you a lot of money. But I’m happy for the form to maybe be a little more volatile and get some wins.”
Five days after saying that, Casey found the volatility he desired, firing a tournament-low 65 in the final round of the Valspar Championship to win for the first time since the 2009 Houston Open on the PGA Tour.
“I’d be lying to you if I didn’t say there were (doubts),” Casey said. “I think the place I’m in and how good this feels – although it’s been nine years since the last victory – there’s no reason I can’t get more victories this year.”
Casey studied why he’d been so good at getting into contention but never closing and singled out his putting as the culprit.
“I didn’t play the golf that I needed to win,” he said. “The glaring factor was I didn’t putt well enough. All the guys that won had strokes gained on the weekend putting and I didn’t. The putting wasn’t good enough. Even though a couple of times I was in the fray, I just wasn’t good enough plain and simple. So I don’t actually feel that frustrated that I let chances go.
“There’s a lot of opportunity. Flip it on its head, if I continue to play the golf I’ve played and putt better, I will win. We’ve been working hard on the putting and feel that this year can be spectacular.”
That formula is what Casey needs to get over the hump at Augusta, where he’s finished in the top six each of the last three years. Winning in March only increases his confidence on his favorite major championship venue.
“I turn up at Augusta with ‘How are we going to win this?’” he said. “I can’t always look you in the eye and say that at some of the other golf courses we play around the world. But at Augusta I turn up and know I can definitely win this. How are we going to do it? Eliminate mistakes. Make a couple of great shots. I know how to play well around there. It’s a fine line between doing what I’ve been doing and breaking through. It’s not a massive difference to be honest.”
Casey has drawn even more inspiration from his generation winning big events, including Sergio Garcia getting his breakthrough major win last April in the Masters at 37. He believes “40-somethings could take on anybody” at Augusta National.
“Yeah, and Henrik Stenson winning the Open Championship in his 40’s and Phil Mickelson winning (the WGC in Mexico) at 47. Without question I take that as a really positive sign. It’s very different now. Tiger (Woods) is back but the players I’m competing against is a very different group of players than those I was competing against earlier in my career. It’s no easier. Ultimately it’s me against the golf course.”