x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Casey looks forward to Abu Dhabi in search for third Falcon Trophy

The Englishman is keen to do away with a forgettable year, play with 'same old Tiger' Woods and draw level with Martin Kaymer for title wins in the UAE capital.

Paul Casey has won the Abu Dhabi title twice, in 2007 and 2009.
Paul Casey has won the Abu Dhabi title twice, in 2007 and 2009.

ABU DHABI // Paul Casey sounds almost like a fan when he reflects on the line-up for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship, which includes Luke Donald, Lee Westwood and three reigning major champions, Charl Schwartzl, Rory McIlroy and Darren Clarke.

And one Eldrick "Tiger" Woods, making his first appearance in the capital.

"I think we've got the top four or five in the world rankings, and adding Tiger to the mix means all eyes will be on the Middle East," Casey said yesterday. "It emphasises what a great tournament Abu Dhabi is. It goes from strength to strength.

"Even with the struggles Tiger has had, he's still the guy who moves the needle, the guy people get excited about. He's not in the top of the world rankings now, but he brings even more excitement."

Casey is so impressed at the strength of the golfers arriving in the capital late next month that it is almost possible to forget that he has won twice at the National Course, in 2007 and 2009.

In fact, either Casey or Martin Kaymer has won the past five Abu Dhabi championships.

"Right now, I can see two Falcon trophies on the wall of my apartment," he said in a phone call from London, referring to the silverware taken home by the Abu Dhabi champion. "Martin has been dominating, winning the past two, but I need to get my third Falcon Trophy and show him it's not just his golf course."

The 31-year-old Englishman will be looking to continue a gradual revival of his game, which suffered last summer when he was diagnosed with "turf toe" - a painful swelling in his foot that eventually impacted his swing, and not in a good way.

The season opened with a victory in Bahrain, but he said he "will be happy to put 2011 behind me".

He finished third in the Chevron World Challenge, a tournament Woods won to end a two-year drought. Casey is looking forward to seeing how the American can perform in Abu Dhabi.

"I got to watch him a little bit, and talked to him briefly, and he seems like the same old Tiger. The jokes are there, the banter in the locker room is the same. I didn't see him until the final few holes in the final, and he played like the old Tiger.

"The intensity was there ... it was like when we saw him in 2000, when he played some of the most unbelievable golf we've ever seen.

"It could be fairly ominous; no reason why he can't get his game back together."

Casey will play in South Africa before coming to Abu Dhabi, and he will not be awed by the competition or the environment.

"It's a great country, and one I feel comfortable in. I'm going to a course I know well and have had success on," he said. "But I'm not coming out to enjoy the beautiful weather … I am coming to play golf."

 

poberjuerge@thenational.ae

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