Given his undoubted skills, experience and unquestionable self-belief Paul Casey holds one of the strangest stats in the history of the Ryder Cup in that he hasn’t played in one since 2008.
In 2009 he was officially the third best player in the world, behind just Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at one point, yet he has missed out on the last four teams.
In 2015 he announced on the Saturday of the World Tour Championship in Dubai, an event he wasn’t even a part of, that he would not be rejoining the European Tour and therefore wouldn’t be eligible to play at Hazeltine the following year.
You might argue that he could have waited a few days before his big reveal.
Ten months later he was watching Europe getting comprehensively turned over and, a little over a year later in October 2017, he rejoined the Tour.
Speaking in Abu Dhabi earlier this year, his first start as a European Tour member for four years, he admitted that his Ryder Cup chances were quickly running out.
“The opportunity to play for Europe is now on the table and just something I just wanted to do, knowing that the clock is ticking, age 40, I don’t have that many opportunities,” he explained. “The reason for stepping away was family. It was too difficult to do. I was struggling to play both tours and family had to be first.
“The only feeling I felt was when watching the Ryder Cup at Hazeltine that I was frustrated that I couldn’t contribute to that. That was hard, to see the brilliant play from the US, the results was a hard one to watch knowing that you’ve got no impact whatsoever.
“Of all the golf I’ve played and victories I’ve had, it’s amazing how the three Ryder Cups, sort of nine days of golf that I’ve been part of, feature so heavily in the amazing memories that I’ve had. There’s nothing quite like that.”
Casey has had a bit of everything in his limited Ryder Cup career; being part of two nine-point victories in 2004 and 2006 before contributing just a half point at Valhalla. And since then nothing…
Two years later there was the famous snub by Colin Montgomerie when Casey, ranked 9th in the world, wasn’t deemed good enough to get one of the three captain’s picks. He was a past winner of the matchplay at Wentworth, a two-time finalist in the World Matchplay in Tucson and third in the Open Championship just six weeks previously but, no, he wouldn’t be part of the 12-man team in Wales.
It was noticeable at the time how, relatively speaking, there weren’t the howls of derision for a player of his standing in the game being overlooked – a bit like Bubba Watson when Davis Love overlooked the World No 7 in 2016.
Casey is many things but he’s certainly not a media darling. Then again many fans see him as the perfect hero; clean cut, exciting, athletic, a birdie machine, THAT swing, the ball striking and all of it with a winning smile.
Personally speaking I find him quite odd given that he is cocky yet socially awkward at the same time. He’s now 40 years of age but he still has the gawkiness of someone trying to look cool in front of his teenage peers.
He’s not funny, so what you might rightfully say?, but he repeatedly tries to be.
When being thoughtful he takes an age to get his words out, often peppered with looks away from the camera and a pursing of the lips, before delivering his nuggets.
He bounces around the place, his confidence looks unwavering and he talks in clipped sentences.
Each to their own and all that but he’s not for me and, seemingly, a lot of others.
But put a club in his hands and I’m not sure I could name more than three players who I would rather have in our team at Le Golf National. I once watched him pitch balls in practice at the Open, under the watchful eye of Peter Kostis, for close to an hour in some drizzle as he worked on getting the contact and spin absolutely spot on. Watching him thump balls into the distance is a must watch for any range dweller.
The other very strange stat about Casey is that he had only won once on the PGA Tour coming into this year. At the Valspar he finally doubled up, ahead of Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods, – he would defend his title in 2019 – before giving himself a four-shot lead going into Sunday at the Travelers.
He couldn’t have looked more assured on Saturday, hitting all 18 greens, and holing a good chunk of the putts. Given the win in March we all thought that the familiar Sunday wobbles would now be a thing of the past but then Watson delivered a 63 and Casey fell away, 10 shots worse than the previous day.
Plus ca change for Casey..
On the plus side, whatever you make of him, it’s another huge step forward to getting back inside the European team room in France and Captain Bjorn will be delighted.