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Casey hopeful of being in the mix

Phil Mickelson's unfortunate absence from this year's Open makes England's Paul Casey the official leading challenger to Tiger Woods

Phil Mickelson's unfortunate absence from this year's Open makes England's Paul Casey the official leading challenger to Tiger Woods in the battle for the famous Claret Jug. The American world No 2 is caring for his wife Amy and mother Mary who have breast cancer. Victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship in January provided the springboard for Casey to enjoy his most productive year so far which has brought him titles in three different continents and high hopes of taking that extra step from tournament winner to major champion.

"I've been in the mix before," said Casey, referring to his tying for the lead heading for Amen Corner on the final day of the US Masters three years ago. "And it's time to sort of put myself in the mix again. I know what the pressure is like [contending for honours at this level]." Casey regards his first win on the US Tour in Houston this season as being pivotal to his development into a contender for the majors. "I've wanted that first win in the States for a long time. It was huge for me," he admitted.

And the next thing on the list is the big stuff, the majors, the World Golf Championship events. "I'm comfortable with that. I've got to keep plugging away and improving the game. "But I know how to win; I've just got to give myself the opportunities, and I really want to to do that. "It's not good enough to be tied for the lead with the last nine holes to go. "I want to be tied for the lead or one shot back or one shot ahead with three or four to go, that's when it really counts, and see what I'm made of, because I think I'd have a pretty good shot at being able to do what it takes." wjohnson@thenational.ae

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