Steer clear of Paul Casey if he’s got an impromptu weekend off – the Englishman despises a lazy Sunday afternoon.

“It still irks me. I pride myself on being world class, so any missed cut on any golf course pisses me off to be honest.”

Fortunately for those around him, it doesn’t happen very often. But when an opening round 78 meant an enforced gap at The Players, the Englishman didn’t waste his spare time.

It might yet prove a big reason why he’s slipping into a green jacket at the end of next week.

“You’ll see guys quite often do a Saturday afternoon practice session if they’ve missed cuts,” he explained.

“But it’s fairly uncommon to see guys do a Sunday practice session because it’s just one of those things. You want to stay out of the way of the leaders. You don’t want to be seen there.

“I went out there, had breakfast with Fleetwood, Rahm and Rory. We were laughing and joking. We were watching James Corden videos pranking David Beckham.

“We were just having a laugh and a joke and, yeah, went out to do some work. It was so important. It was really big.

“One of the areas I worked on was 40 yards and in because that was sloppy at Sawgrass, and I knew I would need that kind of distance at Valspar and the Masters you need it. I played the par 5s in Tampa in 15-under.”

paul casey

For so many years, Casey’s PGA Tour career could have been filed under ‘Curious Cases’. A prolific winner in Europe, he was the nearly man Stateside for almost a decade.

It was nine years between his first victory at the Houston Open in 2009 and then finally breaking the dam at the Valspar last year.

But two weeks ago, he became the first player ever to defend his title on the Copperhead course – going head to head with Dustin Johnson in the final round and prevailing on a layout that was playing brutally difficult for those at the head of the field.

That final-round 72 wasn’t pretty by any means but, at this stage of his career, the 41-year-old doesn’t necessarily need to show his undoubted style. He needs results.

“I was incredibly composed. I played a really, really nice round of golf on what I thought was maybe the toughest setup I’ve seen around that Copperhead golf course.

“I obviously made a couple of mistakes but then everybody did out there.”

He continued: “It’s hard to explain how difficult that was. It was one of the most difficult tests I’ve ever seen. They were very close to almost losing that golf course, was the word among the players.

“It got so dry, which is rare for Florida. The greens got so crispy. They couldn’t quite keep up with it. But I like it.

“I like it that way. It exposed any flaws you had, and there’s no question I made errors, three-putts, and silly little things.

“But looking ahead to the majors, Augusta is very similar in that regard to the challenge we just faced.”

paul casey

Casey thinks aggression has been the key to his final day steel, taking a leaf from the Tour’s young bombers, who come out and simply smash it all over the course.

That’s brought more volatility to his game, and an acceptance that approach might bring more missed cuts – but also more chances to win.

He won’t rein that in at Augusta, a venue where his worst finish in the last four years has been 15th.

“I’ve obviously had good success around Augusta – well good finishes, certainly,” he said. “There’s no question that at Augusta I hit more aggressive shots, or more drivers there, than maybe I used to.

“But if I want to beat Rory and Dustin, and these guys – they have more than me. They’re the ultimate guys right now. If they play their best golf I am not sure I can beat them.

“So I’ve got to try and play them at their own game, and that means being aggressive. If I’m not making enough birdies, then I’ve got no chance.

“I don’t think the second shots change that much. I don’t think the putting changes that much. They are still some of the slopiest greens we play.

“You have to be very precise with your approach shots and they are easier if you take a little bit more risk off the tee.”

He’s also been taking inspiration from another serial Masters performer in Lee Westwood. After breaking a four-year spell without a win at the Nedbank Golf Challenge late last year, the Ryder Cup stalwart said part of his newfound threat was he’d stopped caring about how he was playing.

It was a message that has appealed to Casey at this stage in his career.

paul casey

“I’m very happy in my life in general,” he explained. “I’ve got an amazing wife and kids. I’m of the understanding that time is running out. I’m 41.

“Maybe I’ve got four or five years of world-class golf ahead of me. I’m fairly philosophical about it. There’s things I want to achieve, things I want to tick off that I haven’t done.

“I’m acutely aware of that. But I’m not dwelling on it, just giving it 100 per cent and seeing what happens. If it’s meant to be, it is and, if it isn’t, it isn’t. Plain and simple.

“Westwood said something – fairly recently or late last year after his great victory at Sun City – like ‘I’m dangerous because I kind of don’t care. I’ve had a great career, and people are not expecting me to do anything, and that makes me really, really dangerous’.

“To a certain degree, I’m sort of in the same position. [At the Valspar on] Sunday, teeing off against Dustin Johnson, I know I had a one-shot lead, but for me there was zero pressure.

“Dustin was the favourite, he’s World No. 1. Everybody’s expecting him to win, so that made me really, really dangerous, and I won, and I’m going to carry on that attitude and outlook as long as I can.

“So nobody necessarily expects me to win, but deep down I think I can. I know I can.”

And yet at 25/1, there may well be plenty of punters expecting Casey – currently sitting just outside the world’s top 10 and flying high in the FedEx Cup rankings – to make a Sunday charge at Augusta.

“This is certainly a very, very good opportunity,” he surmised. “It’s a tall task, but why not? I’m very hungry to win it. I want to win it. In the past, maybe early in my career, I maybe didn’t have the right mindset. It’s hard to think back to those times.

“But I can’t think of a time when I’ve been as excited for a championship as I am coming up. Everything is there – the mental side of it, the physical side of it.

“I just probably need a little bit of luck, maybe a good tee time, maybe a couple of guys to make a couple of errors – which you don’t ever wish on anybody.

“But if I do, there’s no reason why I can’t give myself a good opportunity come Sunday afternoon.”