Birkdale-loving Casey cards a first round 66 to put himself bang in contention to become England’s first Open champion for 25 years
PAUL CASEY will celebrate his 40th birthday on Friday in contention for a first major title and the early completion of a five-year plan.
Casey carded a first round of 66 in the Open Championship at Royal Birkdale to lie a shot off the lead shared by the American trio of Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka and Matt Kuchar.
And while he has a quiet dinner planned for Friday evening, a “big party” is on the cards if the former Ryder Cup player ends the week by holding aloft the Claret Jug as England’s first Open champion for 25 years.
“Apparently life begins at 40 so maybe that’s a good omen for me,” Casey said after a round containing five birdies and a solitary bogey, caused by a three-putt on the 11th.
“It felt like I had to do something with a very strong leaderboard and everyone saying that bad weather is coming.
“It was a case of making hay while the sun shines so it was important to capitalise on the conditions.”
Casey’s unusual preparation for the Open included a 300-mile cycling holiday in Italy with his caddie John McLaren, who hit the headlines in October 2015 when he sacked Casey’s former Walker Cup partner, Luke Donald.
But the world No16 maintained the form which has produced five top-12 finishes in his last seven events, including a third straight top-six finish in the Masters.
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“After taking the break with the cycling it’s nice to show people that the break has done me good,” Casey added. “I do 150-200 miles a week when I’m at home in Arizona.
“When Johnny came on the bag (in late 2015) we had a five-year plan to win a major. The Open has never been the one I have fared the best in apart from St Andrews in 2010 (where he finished third), but I feel really good about this week.
“I don’t know why.
“Maybe I am more in love with links golf than before and this course helps. Birkdale might be my favourite course on the rota, even though I shanked one out of bounds on the first hole in 2008.
“It’s so fair and the bunkering is perfect.”
The last seven majors have produced first-time winners, but Casey added: “It’s great to think about but that’s like (dealing) seven red cards in a row. Will the next one be black?”
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