x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Casey clear of the field

The Popeye muscles of Paul Casey gave the formidable Abu Dhabi National course a severe pummeling on the third day.

The Englishman Paul Casey shot a superb 63 to take a firm grip on the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship going into the final day.
The Englishman Paul Casey shot a superb 63 to take a firm grip on the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship going into the final day.

ABU DHABI // The Popeye muscles of Paul Casey gave the formidable Abu Dhabi National course a severe pummeling on the third day, enabling him to wrap one of his powerful arms around the Falcon Trophy which he lifted here two years ago. A brilliant third round of 63, one shot outside Henrik Stenson's course record, gave the Englishman a four-stroke advantage over a star-studded chasing pack led by the defending champion Martin Kaymer. Casey, who is 19 under par for 54 holes, has improved his scoring as the week has gone on and was in no mood to take his foot off the gas as he seeks to end the frustration of failing to win a tournament since his previous triumph here. "It's been hard going so long without a victory and I want that run to end," said Casey who said he is particularly keen to triumph here because of his sponsorship connections with Aldar. Indeed, he spoke of the obligation he had to visit his backers' corporate hospitality tent on Friday afternoon as a contributory factor to Saturday's tremendous display on the course. "I didn't play too well in the second round but I opted to sidestep the practice range and have a nice relaxing lunch instead. It certainly did the trick for me." The European Ryder Cup player will not be too relaxed over the final 18 holes, though. He is a big fan of the second-placed Kaymer who is a fellow member of the same American club as Casey and saw enough last year to know how explosive the German can be around the demanding 7,500 yard course. "Martin is very capable of shooting low scores, so if he shoots the same number as I did today then that would mean I would have to play some very good golf to beat him," he adds. "But I don't think it is the right game plan to worry about what my opponents do. My intention is to go under par again and if I have to start worrying about the situation with a couple of holes to go then so be it." Kaymer, who led from start to finish a year ago to win his maiden tour title, was irked after his own excellent round of five birdies and an eagle three at the eighth did not take him closer to the lead.

"It looks like I am going to need another 65 to have any chance because Casey is playing so well and looking so solid," said Kaymer. "We were practising at the same course in Arizona recently and he looks a really strong player. "He is going to be hard to beat, but we'll wait to see how he starts the final round and how I start it and then I will decide how aggressive I need to be. "But it is not just Casey I have to beat out there. Graeme Storm is dangerous and so is Anthony Wall. There are a few guys who can still win this tournament." Storm was the overnight joint leader with Australia's Richard Green and, in normal circumstances, the Englishman would have been content to add a 69 to get himself to 14 under par, but Casey's brilliance made that effort look inadequate. His English compatriot Wall hit the same score to claim fourth place, one shot ahead of a trio on 12 under - the Swedish duo of Johan Edfors and Peter Hanson, and the South African player Louis Oosterhuizen. The pre-tournament favourite Padraig Harrington, made significant progress to get to 11 under, but renowned as the Irishman has become in chasing down those ahead of him coming down the final stretch, he looks to have too much to do to catch Casey. wjohnson@thenational.ae