NEW dad Paul Casey could be on his way to the mother of all pay days after grabbing a share of the halfway lead at golf’s richest event.
Casey became a father for the second time last week, but his bid for a £8.5million jackpot in the FedEx Cup play-offs meant he could he had to miss the birth, and he has still not seen his baby daughter.
But even though he could not be there when Astaria was born, he will be able to shower her with presents if he keeps on playing like this.
A second round 67 at the Tour Championship meant he was tied for top spot on seven under par, alongside newly-crowned USPGA Champion Justin Thomas and former US Open champ Webb Simpson.
But the English ace knows this course better than either of his closest rivals, after finishing in the top five on all three previous visits to East Lake.
He said: “All I all, it’s a pretty exciting time – hectic, but exciting.
“I haven’t been home to see the baby yet, but that is something to look forward to. I can’t wait to get home, hopefully with a nice bonus from this week.
“It’s going to be brilliant picking up my new daughter. Pollyanna picked the name, Astaria – I don’t know where that one came from, but it has a nice sound to it.
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Casey, 40, picked up where he left off in round one – where three birdies in the final four holes sent him racing up the leaderboard – and two more early birdies catapulted him into the lead.
But was handed a reminder of just how volatile the race for golf’s richest prize can be when he stumbled to back-to-back bogeys at the 12th and 13th.
He was tied for the lead with Simpson at eight under par standing on the 12th tee, and the PGA Tour prediction had him in pole position to carry off the £7.4million bonus as overall FedEx Cup champion as well as the £1.1million winner’s cheque.
But two holes later he was projected to finish ninth on the overall standings – just one place higher than his starting position.
A birdie on 16 put him back on top, only for Thomas to eagle at the last to throw another spoke in the calculations.
Casey knows there will be plenty more ups and downs over the next two days, but is happy to ride the rollercoaster.
He added: “The way I’ve played the first 36 holes.I probably played better than I did yesterday. It is all going to plan – I was playing very tidy golf, and the late blemishes on the card were from some sloppy stuff.
“My course form is good, which gives me a bit more confidence. You’re up against 29 other top guys, but it’s still strong.
“I’ve had a very good season to this point but I would like to turn it into a great one – and the way to do it would be with victory this week.”
The big worry is that despite being based in the United States for the last ten years, Casey has found it hard to close the deal when he has a shot at winning.
His only victory on American soil came at the 2009 Houston Open, and it has been a similar story in Europe over the past three years.
The last of his 13 European Tour victories was at the 2014 Dutch Open. Since then he has claimed 15 top five finishes – three more than any other ‘win-less’ player has managed in the same period.
There would be no better time to end the drought, but fellow Englishman Justin Rose also has the scent of victory, after a brilliant birdie at the final hole put him in a four-man pack just a shot off the lead.
He said: “I lipped out on 16 and 17 and if I hadn’t managed to make birdie at the last – one of only two par fives here – it would have felt like I’d left a lot of shots out there.
“I had a bit of a smelly lie in the bunker for my third shot, and I actually did well to get it to within 12 feet of the flag. Holing that putt made this feel like a pretty good day after all.
“This is a course where I feel very comfortable, having played well here on numerous occasions in the past, and I like my position going into the weekend.”