England’s Paul Casey gets back to winning ways
Casey’s peerless display is capped off by a 60-footer for eagle on the finishing hole
England’s Paul Casey celebrates an eagle on the 18th hole on his way to winning the Irish Open at Carton House, Co Kildare. Photograph: Julien Behal/PA
The forgotten man, as Paul Casey had become, provided further proof of the old cliche: if form is temporary, class is permanent. Yesterday, the Englishman – who once upon a time rose to a career high of third in the world rankings only to be bedevilled by injuries that led to an improbable slump – hit the shots, sank the putts and stole the show as he came in from the cold to claim the Irish Open with a closing 67 for 274, 14-under-par, that gave him a clear three stroke margin over his pursuers.
On a day when a stiff wind and some tricky pin placements caused second-guessing on club selection and a prolonged squall with heavy rain added to the difficulty, Casey – who came into the championship as the 169th ranked player in the world – overcame a 54-hole four stroke deficit on Dutchman Joost Luiten, who had to settle for a share of second place alongside Robert Rock.
In front of a final day crowd of 24,173, Casey’s peerless display, capped off by a 60-footer for eagle on the finishing hole, reminded us of his quality. But there were others who provided special moments, among them Gareth Shaw, the 27-year-old Ulsterman who normally plies his trade on the secondary Challenge Tour, who bogeyed his opening two holes before completing the remainder in five-under en route to a 69 for 280 that lifted him into tied-fifth alongside Shane Lowry.
Clicked into gear
For much of the final round, Luiten and, briefly, Jose Maria Olazábal seemed destined to claim the prize. Until Casey clicked into gear, that is. Without a win on tour since the Volvo Golf Champions, after which he spent over three months sidelined by a shoulder injury suffered in a snowboarding accident, Casey had a slow start to his final round and didn’t appear an obvious threat as he started seven straight pars; then, a tap-in two-footer on the eighth kick-started a run for glory. He proved unstoppable.
Indeed, Casey claimed four successive birdies from the eighth – holing from distances ranging from three-feet to 12-feet with an exhibition of accurate iron play – and, after parring the 12th, he got back on the birdie train with an approach to two feet on the 13th that, unbeknownst to him, moved him three shots clear. Back-to-back bogeys on the 15th and 16th made for a shaky home run, until he rolled in that monster eagle putt on the 18th (where he hit a three-iron from the right rough to the front of the green) to capture the title and the €333,330 winner’s cheque.
Afterwards, Casey kept looking at the trophy and the names on the base which confirmed its rich heritage. Ballesteros, Langer, Olazábal, Faldo, Montgomerie and Harrington. “I don’t think I quite realised the list of names who have won the Irish Open . . . . but I’ve always held golf in Ireland in a special place in my heart, and it is at the highest level; the Irish fans are the best. I’ve always felt so at home here.”