x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Casey has more drive

Comfortably the best golfer in the world this year, Paul Casey can look forward to next month's US Open with confidence as he pursues a breakthrough win in the majors to add to his growing collection of tournament titles.

Comfortably the best golfer in the world this year, Paul Casey can look forward to next month's US Open with confidence as he pursues a breakthrough win in the majors to add to his growing collection of tournament titles. With his brilliant victory in the BMW PGA Championship, Casey climbed to No 3 in the world rankings and underlined the qualities which could take him to the top. Even before he teed off in the first round at Wentworth he had already accumulated more world ranking points in 2009 than any other golfer. He is the first player this year to score three tournament wins and he has amassed more than twice as many ranking points as all but five other golfers - Phil Mickelson, Jeff Ogilvy, Sean O'Hair, Kenny Perry and Henrik Stenson.

While players often talk about taking their game to the next level, Casey has done just that after starting the year ranked No 42. His marriage last October to long time girlfriend Jocelyn Hefner has created extra stability in his life and helped him find consistency, which had been the key factor missing from his game. When he arrived in Abu Dhabi in January, Casey had not won for two years and his nerves showed in the final round as he reached the turn with a six-stroke lead but hung on for a single shot win.

A month later only Geoff Ogilvy's golden putting display in the final halted Casey's march to the WGC-Accenture Match Play title. But Casey was not kept waiting long for his next triumph, emerging from a world-class field to take his first PGA Tour victory in April, winning the Houston Open by beating JB Holmes on the first play-off hole. Suddenly, the Englishman look a player who believes he can win every time he tees it up, and his display at Wentworth showed the huge progress he has made.

This was the European Tour at its best, with record crowds, the West course in magnificent shape, glorious weather, and superb golf. The victory was special for Casey who was brought up nearby and was inspired to take up golf by watching the World Match Play Championship at Wentworth. He went on to win the event in 2006, demolishing Sean McKeel 10 and 9 in the 36-hole final. Brilliant at his best, Casey nevertheless blew hot and cold before his win in Abu Dhabi ignited his charge up the world rankings.

I followed his final round at Wentworth and was impressed to see him hit shots which only half a dozen other players, at best, were capable of. The one that stood out came on the long par four third hole when his nine iron from a fairway bunker 164 yards from the green finished 18 inches from the flag to set up a birdie. Casey has tremendous power and seems to use it effortlessly. His big advantage was his length off the tee with a three wood which gave him greater accuracy on the tree lined fairways. He was able to reach the edge of the green on the 610-yard par five 17th with a three wood, four iron combination.

This power helped him fend off the charging Ross Fisher, and could be a huge asset to him next month in the US Open at Bethpage, a tough course where length and accuracy off the tee will be crucial. Casey is already assured of a place in British golfing history. Only Nick Faldo and Ian Woosnam, both former world No 1s, and former world No 2 Colin Mongtomerie, have climbed higher in the world rankings, and in his current mood the Englishman must have his sights set on the pinnacle of golf.

If he could ask for one more thing to add to his game it would be more consistency on the greens. He can get hot with the putter, although that didn't quite happen at Wentworh where the greens at this time of year have been lacking in the past and can be very difficult to read. This is why the Wentworth club is spending £2million (Dh11.6m) on rebuilding the greens which will be dug up starting on Monday.

Not far away, the European Open gets under way at The London Club today with Fisher looking to make up for his Wentworth near miss by successfully defending his title. Sergio Garcia, the runner-up last year, would probably settle for a repeat performance as he struggles to rediscover his form. He's going through a frustrating phase and his putting problems may be putting pressure on the rest of his game. That's what can happen when your putting lets you down and you start taking risks.

Meanwhile, the thoughts of everyone in golf are with Phil Mickelson who will not be defending his title in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial following the news that his wife Amy has been diagnosed with breast cancer. No-one works the ball around a course better than Mickelson and golf lovers everywhere hope Amy and Phil will be back to their best before too long. pparkin@thenational.ae