ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Paul Casey had a front-row seat for Louis Oosthuizen’s romp to the claret jug the last time the British Open was staged at St. Andrews.
As Oosthuizen crossed the Swilcan Bridge on No. 18 on his way to completing a seven-stroke victory in 2010, the player alongside the South African in the final group was Casey — one of Europe’s top golfers at the time.
A 3-over 75, coupled with Oosthuizen’s impressive play that Sunday, dashed Casey’s chances of victory and he finished tied for third. Injuries and a loss of form ensured the Englishman hasn’t come close to lifting the claret jug since, but the tournament’s return to the home of golf coincides with a return to form for Casey.
With Rory McIlroy sidelined with an ankle injury, British hopes could yet rest with Casey.
“I had a very good view of Louis tearing the place to pieces back in 2010,” Casey said Monday. “It was a real treat to be in the final group.
“Maybe I made a couple of mistakes then, but I won’t make them again.”
Casey has good reason to be so bullish. He’s getting closer to the kind of form that took him to a career-high No. 3 in the rankings in 2009, with six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this year, including runner-up at the Northern Trust Open and the Travelers Championship.
He’s injury-free and he has a happy home life, having recently married and had a first child, Lex.
“I’ve got no reason not to perform well,” said Casey, who had a week off in London while other top players played at the Scottish Open or the John Deere Classic last week.
“It’s very much back to where I was in 2006, ’09, ’10, these years where I’m very much hungry. I’m not here just to make up the numbers.”
When the top-ranked McIlroy announced he wouldn’t be playing at St. Andrews, thoughts turned to who could provide the home challenge. Justin Rose is the other Briton in the world’s top 10 and may feel he is owed something at golf’s birthplace. He didn’t qualify in 2000, didn’t get the call from first reserve in 2005 and missed the cut in 2010 after nasty weather on the Friday.
At No. 24 — from a starting point this season of No. 77 — Casey is the only other Briton inside the world’s top 30, so no wonder expectations are high, especially considering his form and experience here.
It just needs a win to cap an impressive year for Casey. And where better to achieve it than at St. Andrews?
“I would not have thought I’d be (in this position) at the beginning of the year,” said Casey, who plunged to as low as No. 133 in 2012. “Things have definitely gone very, very well, but I also feel slightly unfulfilled … I’ve knocked on the door and not opened it.”
Casey is in a group also containing U.S. player Jim Furyk and South Africa’s Branden Grace, who finished fourth and two shots behind Jordan Spieth at the U.S. Open last month.
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