Casey is an athletic, pure golfer. He looks like an all-American college graduate – until he speaks – and plays golf with a similar aggressive attitude. Holes are for birdies, courses are for records, this is his undoubted philosophy on the game, but it has led him into trouble. For all his American lifestyle and image, there is an unnerving British trait lying beneath the surface: he has been known to choke.
In 2003, he failed to finish a number of events when well-clear. Even his impressive win at the B&H International at the Belfry came after an ugly double bogey on 14 and bogey on 18. Ripping the course up for three rounds and blowing it on the back-9 on Sunday will not make you a “big thing” – Casey knows this: “I am working on consistency. Technically I am trying to get better – my flexibility wasn’t very good. I could get away with playing good golf when I was relaxed, but as soon as there was pressure and I got tense and I was not able to hit the ball as I wanted. I have been working on this.”
Despite his protestations, he is still young and is still learning. His Major record to date is one of progress rather than success culminating in that fantastic Masters debut. He had missed his first four cuts in Majors, before playing the weekend at the 2003 PGA.
So how does his youth sit on the European Tour – would the life of a Tour golfer be fun for a 26-year-old or is the atmosphere more like an office: “It depends on the event and what mood people are in. We all have our moments, but we all get on with each other, we are in the business of entertaining people and there is plenty of money to go round. You do have to be an individual – you can’t worry about what anyone else is doing. These guys will say well played, or good win, but the following week, you start again and there is another trophy to be won. If you win, there is a brief moment of joy and then you are back to work the next week.”
This down to earth attitude is what sets him apart from the more high-profile players. He may be a serious contender on the world stage, yet the British press is still more interested in other golfers. Does this bother him?
“I don’t chase the exposure. I turn down interviews, maybe too many. My focus has always been golf. Sometimes I enjoy sneaking under the radar as it is possibly an advantage. I am pretty quiet anyway, I am confident with who I am and I have a lot of friends on Tour – so I will not go out of my way to gain exposure for the sake of it… If I grew a stupid beard and looked like a smurf everyone would know who I am – I am not going do that.”
That said, sponsors and the press are beginning to pick up on his marketability, courageous golf and likeable demeanour. The Irish Examiner wrote that: “Unlike Justin Rose, (Paul Casey) looks more like a footballer than a cricketer, he is a marketing man’s dream.” He has lucrative deals with Titleist, Lacoste and Red Bull. Through careful planning and guidance so as not to effect his golf, Paul Casey will become Britain’s next “big thing” both on and off the course.
He knows that his most valuable asset is his golf, so this has always to be the priority. Take his eye off golf and he’ll join the long list of burgeoning superstars turned also-rans. This is not an option.