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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 19 June 2018

Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship 2018: Paul Casey thrilled to be back at the National Course

Back on the European Tour, the two-time champion spent much of his time catching up after being away from the emirate for three years

Paul Casey feels like he is back in the same school after a few years. Tom Dulat / Getty Images
Paul Casey feels like he is back in the same school after a few years. Tom Dulat / Getty Images

Even as one of only two men to have won the Falcon Trophy more than once, Paul Casey conceded to feeling a little underprepared in Abu Dhabi this week.

The Englishman, a two-time champion, has not played in the emirate since 2014, the result of his decision back then to swap the European Tour for the PGA Tour.

However, a desire to represent Europe at this year’s Ryder Cup provided the principal reason for him to rejoin. Thus, this week he contests a regular European Tour event for the first time in four years.

The Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA, always represented an obvious ice-breaker, given Casey triumphed there twice in three years, in 2007 and 2009. Apparently, the National Course still elicits a “nice, warm, fuzzy feeling”.

It is just a shame that, by Wednesday morning, he had not really seen that much of it.

A post shared by Paul Casey (@paul_caseygolf) on

“I was here Monday, Tuesday, but specifically yesterday, was really cool,” Casey said. “I got nothing done. My efficiency of work was rubbish because I was too busy saying hello to everybody.

“It's like being back at school as I haven't seen everybody for two or three years. Not many people on the range are more excited than I am to be here this week.”

Casey had plenty of time to build the anticipation. Although he did not announce his return to the European Tour until October, he had actually made up his mind some months before.

“July, when I was back at the Open Championship and playing at [Royal] Birkdale,” he said. “Just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd: it was kind of the final ‘I miss this’.

“The opportunity to play for Europe at a Ryder Cup is now on the table and something I just wanted to do. Knowing that the clock is ticking, age 40, I don't have that many opportunities. I was fully bought in after the Open Championship.”

Casey went all in during those first few years in the UAE capital. He won by a single stroke on both occasions, a couple of successes that helped his climb to third in the world rankings - a career high.

The National Course - hole by hole

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Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

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That he now sits 14th despite not securing a title in more than three years is testament to Casey’s consistency. However, judging by his present mood, he probably feels like a winner already.

“Most exciting thing is just to get teeing off on Thursday, with [Lee] Westwood and [Tyrrell Hatton], and the great crowds that we always have here,” Casey said.

“Golf course is cool. I need to dig into the archives and look at some old notes. [Caddie] Johnny [McLaren] brought some old yardage books, see if I can rekindle that old form that I had around here.”