Paul Casey Boosts Ryder Cup Hopes With Victory in the Desert
PAUL CASEY shot a final round of 70 to win the Dubai Desert Classic by four shots. It was his 15th victory on the European Tour and he struggled to fight back the tears as he said afterwards that he is desperate to be a member of Padraig Harrington’s Ryder Cup team later this year. This win will go a long way towards helping him achieve that goal.
The Englishman finished on 17 under par at the Emirates Golf Club, four ahead of South Africa's Brandon Stone, with Scot Robert MacIntyre third on 12 under.
Casey entered the day with a one shot lead and while he turned in level par 35, that was enough for a three -shot advantage which had been extended to five with five to play.
The 43-year-old never looked in any real danger as he cruised to a triumph that moves him back into the top 20 on the Official World Golf Ranking. "I'm always emotional with wins, but this one is such a prestigious event," he said. "The history which is behind you, and I can see it from here with amazing winners, is basically a who's who in world golf. I'm so over the moon. Not just 15, the fact it's Dubai. It's an iconic event on the European Tour. One of the coolest trophies around.
“The whole of 2020 was very strange, still is very strange, and I'm very, very thankful to be able to do what I do and still be out here playing golf. We had some fans this week, they were amazing. Obviously not a lot because we're still in the middle of a pandemic.
"Myself, just like a lot of other people, it's not been enjoyable. So to have something like this happen, hopefully that can bring happiness to other people, as well.
"I'm still learning. I'm still getting better. I'm still growing up. I always like to learn from the guys I play against and compete with and against. Playing the best in the world, guys like Dustin (Johnson) right now, sort of learning what they do and it's something I've worked on. I feel kind of fine with where I'm at and it doesn't mean I'm soft. It actually means I'm kind of pushing on and I'm at peace with whatever happens in terms of my golf career from here on. So it actually means I've worked incredibly hard the last few months and I've literally gone foot down.
"I'd love to be part of Padraig's team in any capacity. I'd obviously love to be on the golf course first because I think that's where I'm most useful and if I'm not on the golf course, I'd still love to be part of his team and do my bit for Europe. Paris was the greatest experience I've had and I think Whistling Straits is going to be a battle. It's always difficult on their turf.”
MacIntyre holed from 11 feet on the second to share the lead, but Casey made a two putt birdie from 65 feet on the par five next to edge back ahead. The leader was in a tough spot on the next, in thick rough with a downhill run off the green towards the water but he holed a stunning chip to move two ahead. Sometimes you just know it is your day.
He missed the green and failed to get up and down on the sixth and eighth but stayed two ahead as MacIntyre missed the green himself on the seventh and then missed a putt from inside two feet on the next. The 24-year-old found the water on the ninth but holed a great putt from the fringe to keep the damage to one shot, and Casey led by three at the turn.
Three putts at the tenth made it four bogeys in a row for MacIntyre and when Casey holed from 20 feet on the 11th, the lead was five shots. Stone had endured a tough front nine, bogeying the second, sixth and seventh to turn in 38 but made a two-putt birdie on the par five tenth and hit a beautiful tee shot into the par three next for another gain. He chipped over the 12th green to drop a shot but made the most of the par five 13th and trimmed the lead back to four.
But Casey made a two-putt birdie of his own on the 13th to get back five ahead, while MacIntyre joined Stone in second after holing from 15 feet on the next. Casey was in trouble when he found a nasty lie off the tee at the 15th, failed to get out of the rough and then flew his third but a brilliant clutch putt kept the damage to one. Stone drove right up to the 17th green and got up and down for a birdie but a two putt gain on the last restored Casey's four shot cushion.
England's Laurie Canter and Finn Kalle Samooja finished at ten under, a shot clear of 2017 champion Sergio Garcia, Harrington and Austria's Bernd Wiesberger.
PATRICK REED is another man with the Ryder Cup on his mind and he also took a giant step towards clinching his place on Steve Stricker’s American team with a five-shot victory at the Farmers Insurance Open. But it was a win that was shrouded in controversy.
The 30-year-old began the day tied for the lead at 10 under with Mexico's Carlos Ortiz and eased to victory with a four-under 68 at Torrey Pines.
Reed benefitted from a controversial free drop at the 10th hole on Saturday but there were no signs of the incident affecting him on the final day.
"I hung in there after everything that transpired yesterday," he said."I felt mentally strong throughout the round. When I spoke to the rules officials they said I did everything I could. I felt great throughout the day. I was able to go out there and shoot a low number and get the job done."
Ortiz had a tough day, carding a five-over final round to finish in 19th place, and it was left to rising Norwegian star Viktor Hovland to apply a little pressure on Reed.
Ryder Cup player Reed eagled the sixth and birdied the seventh and although he gave one back at the next he got it straight back at the ninth to go out in 33.
Hovland made four birdies in six holes to reach the turn in 32 though, which meant Reed had to play solidly on the back nine to secure the title.
He did so, making eight straight birdies and then a birdie at the last to put the gloss on a comfortable victory, while Hovland fell away with bogeys at the 14th, 15th and then on 17 when he missed a putt of barely two feet.
Spain's Jon Rahm carded a disappointing closing 72 to finish tied seventh while former Open champion Francesco Molinari of Italy continued his return to form with a closing 66 to share 10th.
It was another disappointing tournament for Rory McIlroy, who came home in one over to finish in 16th place on six under par.
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