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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Paul Casey wants to match Martin Kaymer as a hat-trick winner of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Round of 65 leaves Englishman on -9 after two rounds and in contention to add to his 2007 and 2009 titles at Abu Dhabi Golf Club.

Paul Casey was a happy man following his 65 on the second day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images
Paul Casey was a happy man following his 65 on the second day of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship. Ross Kinnaird / Getty Images

Given his long absence from this track, Paul Casey is not short of motivation for excelling at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, presented by EGA, this week.

It is his first regular European Tour event in four years, and he is worried people might have forgotten him after all the years he has spent stateside.

“A lot of guys have never seen me play,” Casey said, after moving to 9 under-par for the tournament with a 65 in Friday’s second round.

“Tyrrell Hatton [Casey’s playing partner for the opening two rounds, alongside Lee Westwood], I’ve never played with him in Europe. Yeah, I’d like to show him what I'm capable of.”

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Chief among his incentives, though, is the prospect of matching Martin Kaymer’s tally of titles in the UAE capital.

There was a time when the National Course was basically a plaything shared between Casey and Kaymer. Between 2007 - the second running of the tournament – and 2011, theirs were the only two names inscribed on the Falcon Trophy.

Casey was the winner in 2007 and 2009, but the fact Kaymer won three times over the course of that five-year run grates with the Englishman.

“I know this course well, I think that's the thing, I know how to get around it,” Casey said.

“I know where I struggle around this golf course. I know where I can capitalise with the strengths of my game.

“I've got a good fan base here. There's lots of positives. Every hole it seems like I've got good memories of, so it really is drawing from some of those past experiences.

“I guess it means nothing in the grand scheme of things because you can't control whatever guys do.

“But I think the biggest motivation is the fact that Kaymer has got three and I've only got two. The German, I see him obviously in Arizona because he spends a lot of time out there, and he doesn't let me forget it. So I would love to equal that record this week.”

The world No 14 did not have a bogey on his card in his 7-under-par second round, which included an eagle at the 18th.

Around 20 minutes after he signed his card, Kaymer followed him in with a 68 that moved him to 7-under for the tournament, two shots behind Casey.

“It's always nice when you come back to a golf course where you have done well, but also it's the very first tournament of the year,” Kaymer said.

“It always gave me good motivation. I remember Paul when he won here in 2009. We had five years of victories. I think for both of us, we always drove it very well on the golf course.

“Once you do that, you always have a good chance to do well here. I think it was really the key for me the last few years.”

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Casey spoke, on the eve of the tournament, of his gratitude over how well his return to the Tour has been received.

Now he is here, though, he is conscious he has to put on a show, rather than just showing up.

“Obviously there's been attention on me so far this week because of rejoining the European Tour,” Casey said.

“But I don't want this to be a turn up and, ‘Yeah, I'm rejoining the Tour, isn't it great?’

“I'm here and I want to try and win this. I'm not going to have that many opportunities in Europe to win, and I'm still going to be very focused in the US and I want to win there, too.

“But I'm putting pressure on myself, a nice amount of pressure, to try on the opportunities I have in Europe, to capitalise and do something

“Let's show these guys. I've won a lot of times in Europe.”