Catharsis for Paul Casey as he relives last years Augusta meltdown

By: samjack

But Paul Casey’s description of his final-round fall at last year’s Masters, a slow descent into a sporting underworld of helplessness and cruelty, is as riveting as it is honest.

For my money it says a great deal about Casey’s current happiness that he can relate his memories of that April day with such candid straightforwardness. It is not so much a stream of consciousness as a torrent. Maybe Casey’s recent marriage to long-term American girlfriend Jocelyn has brought him unexpected certainty.

Does he think he has changed? “I feel very happy. I feel like I don’t have anything to prove to anybody.” “Did you before?” “Maybe,” Casey says with that insecure sideways smile he has when not 100 per cent sure of his ground.

“Like what?” “I don’t know. All I know is that I don’t really feel that now. Whatever it was, it’s gone. I’m not sure what I felt before, but I don’t feel like I’m trying to be anybody other than who I am.”

Would Casey rather be known now as good bloke than champion golfer? “Yeah, good bloke down the bar or whatever. I wouldn’t give up any one of my nine wins. But they’re not going to define me.

“To my friends and family the golf is nothing. That’s second. I don’t want golf to be who I am. But I want my golfing career to be majors. When they talk about me, it would be: ‘I remember when he won the Masters in 2009.’ “

So let’s talk about the record at the Masters. “Three top-11s and one missed cut,” says Casey instantly. Augusta sets up beautifully for Casey’s high, power game and streaks of brilliant putting. He contended in his very first year, but admits now: “I was probably a little bit out of my depth.”

When Casey again went out in the penultimate group last year, you expected him to have learnt. He probably had, but Augusta decided to tear Casey apart just for the hell of it. The previous day Casey had played the front nine in 32 shots. The course took its revenge.

“I did feel comfortable last year. I hit a poor shot to the fourth after birdieing the previous hole, but the criminal error was leaving it in that bunker, trying to be cute with it.”

I interject: “I’m going to be harsh on you. That’s not a mistake Tiger would ever have made or Padraig would ever have made.” The interjection seems to open the floodgates and the torrent of consciousness is released.

“I agree. What was poor was the indecision. I picked out a shot and an area. And I got in there [the bunker] and I go: ‘You know what, I know that spot, but if I go three feet left I could hole it or get it right next to the hole.’

“And I was: ‘Er, either six feet for par or maybe I hole it. Ooh, er’ and then I didn’t pick either. That’s the mistake. The mistake is never picking a shot and giving it everything and hitting it in the water. To me that’s not a mistake, that’s a bad shot. I made a mistake. Flat out mistake.

“I then hit a very good shot into the next hole and it didn’t hold the green and I splashed out and made bogey. Again, I hit another very good looking shot on six. I splashed that out to two feet and I thought: ‘OK, here we go, perfect, we’ll knock this one in and we’ll get going, right the ship.’

“And I stood over that putt and the ball moved. That was the complete wind out of the sails, just a complete punch in the …” Casey pauses for what seems like seconds as the rest of the world continues to walk by, “… stomach. That was just a horrible feeling.

“I keep asking people: ‘Did you see it move?’ cos I want someone else to go: ‘Yes, I saw it move.’ But nobody’s ever seen it move. But it did.”

I mention that it was replayed a few times on television. “Did they see it move? No? Well, it did. And that’s the only thing you can do. Call it [a one-shot penalty] on yourself. That was such a horrible feeling. From that point my head was, not spinning with anger – I felt, I don’t know what to do. Now what? I’ve hit a good shot. I haven’t done anything wrong and I’ve just walked off with another bogey. Now what?

“I think I three-putted the next or something and it was just like, help, complete help, I was having a mini-meltdown.” Casey laughs. “It was the thing that I haven’t actually done much wrong, and it’s all falling apart.

“It’s such a difficult golf course that you have to be on top of your game. If you’re not on top of your game you can be made to look very silly, amateurish, whatever. That was what I felt. I felt, boy, I don’t have control of my golf ball, now what? This is going to be very difficult to get it round from this point.

“I actually played a very good back nine. But the tournament was done by then. It was over. Unfortunately.”

It is a long time since Casey has talked so openly to the media. He has always been a bit different. At times there is a touch of the Kevin Pietersen about his honesty, but it sets him apart in a good way. Maybe there is catharsis in reliving last year. Another golfer might see a sports psychologist, but Casey gave them up long ago. He knows what they would tell him. Stay in the moment, take each shot as it comes?

“Correct. That’s all it is. Do you want a job? But it is difficult to do. I need to be better at it. I’m extremely good when my back’s against the wall.” Casey reels off a couple of matches from last year’s Ryder Cup to prove his point. His problem has always been not the last-green heroics, but staying in the moment long enough to get there.

So if he got in contention again this year – if he was within a shot or two of the lead playing the 17th, just as Justin Rose was two years ago – would he have what it takes?

Casey says: “I fancy my chances. Michael Jordan didn’t hit every single buzzer beater, but he made a lot of them and people remember the ones that he made. You can’t control the other guy. But I feel good about my chances.”

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