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January 17, 2018
Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Welcome, Mr. Casey. Welcome back to Abu Dhabi.
Your thoughts on being back? Obviously welcomed you back last week at EurAsia Cup as a member of Team Europe which was very successful and back here at Abu Dhabi, a place which you have a lot of fond memories. Give us your thoughts on being back and looking ahead to this week.
PAUL CASEY: It's really cool to be back. What do they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder? Quite cheesy, but no, really, really cool.
Been thinking about it since middle of last year. Actually I knew what I was doing from July onwards as to rejoining the Tour. You know, figuring out the details and when to announce it and when to actually join was also kind of, took some time to figure it out. But yeah, so for quite a while, been very excited to get back out here.
Last week was brilliant. Great fun to be part of a team, playing for Captain Bj√∂rn, kind of a whole generation now that I seem to have played for a couple of different generations, and that was exciting. Guys played great. Good to get the victory. We needed to do that, and then this week, a golf course I know well.
Two victories, yeah, it's cool. It's like being back at school and kind of haven't seen everybody for two or three years. Not many people on the range are more excited than I am to be here this week.
Q. What was so difficult about making a decision to come back? You talked about mid-July. When you and I talked in September, you didn't tell me you were as close to making the decision as you were.
PAUL CASEY: There was some details to iron out in terms of how to rejoin the Tour. You know, when to rejoin, how I was going to do it. Didn't have to tell you, though.
Q. I should have known.
PAUL CASEY: Made it more exciting this way. I think one of the keys, when I say July, when I was back at The Open Championship and playing at Birkdale, just the reception there, playing in front of a home crowd, it was kind of the final sort of, you know, this is something I just -- I miss this.
You know, the opportunity to play for Europe is now on the table at a Ryder Cup and just something I just wanted to do, knowing that the clock is ticking, age 40, I don't have that many opportunities. I was fully bought in at that stage after The Open Championship.
Q. Did you feel that you were being wooed?
PAUL CASEY: No. But maybe. No, I've had wonderful dialogue with Pelley and Bj√∂rn, but ultimately, it was my decision and something that just felt it was necessary for me to do.
You know, I've always said, and I've been very consistent on the message, that 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.
From the family angle, it's doubly difficult now with another child at home. But it's too important to, as I say, the window of opportunity to make an impact for Europe, assist Europe, and continue my great golf, my sort of legacy in European golf; that window of opportunity is closing, and this was the right time.
So there were factors. I mean, the fact that the numbers dropped from five to four is massive. Doesn't seem like a lot, but it is, for me. So was I wooed? No, but everything fell into place; the stars aligned.
Q. Did you feel pressure during your sort of time in exile? Did you feel pressure that you had to come back?
PAUL CASEY: Exile's a strong word.
Q. Well, your time away.
PAUL CASEY: It's like a vacation.
Q. Did you feel any pressure? Was there any sort of negativity that you should be out here because you had been a star on the Tour; that you owed it to The European Tour?
PAUL CASEY: 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 U.S., the results was a hard one to watch knowing that you've got no impact whatsoever.
That was most difficult thing. No, no pressure. I've always had great, great dialogue with Keith. He's never pressured me in any way. I've never faced pressure from family and friends. No, anything I felt has always been internal.
Q. Was Hazeltine a turning point in your decision to come back?
PAUL CASEY: Certainly a factor. 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, great memories that I've had in my golfing career. There's nothing quite like that.
Yeah, it's a big part of this decision, a major part of this decision.
Q. Now that you will be playing as a full-fledged Member of The European Tour, have you thought about your schedule, especially for The European Tour part of it? Which are the events you're looking at and how many would you play?
PAUL CASEY: Gibbo just asked me. I think my schedule is sort of Pebble, L.A., Match Play, Tampa. It's very -- I'll be honest. It's very U.S.-focussed. It's where I continue to live and have done for 21 years. That's not going to change.
The main factor is that I'm now eligible. I need to continue to play the level of golf I've played for the last couple of years, and if I do that, then I can be an asset to Europe. If I don't, then I'm not. For me to play my best golf means I need to continue to do what I've been doing.
You know, I'm effectively 2-down out of the four I need to play, and I'll figure out what the remaining events will be in order to meet my requirement to play The European Tour. But I haven't figured that out yet. Obviously I'd love The Ryder Cup to be one of those. But no, I've not thought really past -- my schedule is not set in stone, even up until Augusta, I'm still figuring out what to play in around that month of April. Unfortunately I can't enlighten you with what I might be playing.
Q. As you say, you've played some good golf the last two years. Do you feel the two years has made you a stronger asset potentially for The European Team, both on the course and in the team room?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, I think it has. The level of golf I'm playing has been some of the highest I've ever played. You know, I'm not the highest World Ranking I've ever been. Obviously I'm getting older and guys are getting younger and hitting it past me more frequently, but my consistency, my confidence on the golf course, my shot-making ability has probably never been better.
And then, if I take last week as an example, the role that I feel I can now play and the assets I have to contribute to a team, are great when maybe in the beginning, I didn't have -- I couldn't play those other roles. I wasn't the experienced guy. But you know, teaming up with a Tyrrell Hatton or a Tommy Fleetwood and being almost double their age, is a cool role, and one that hopefully I can play in Paris. I would love to play that role.
And it felt very fulfilling last week to be able to do that on and off the golf course to sort of lead. Yeah, it's just another reason for doing this, it really is. It's very satisfying from my position.
Q. In a more general sense, as we start a new year and as a more experienced player in the nicest possible sense, what's your opinion on the kind of current state of professional golf and, dare I say, appeal of professional golf in a broader sense?
PAUL CASEY: It's a good question. That could be a long answer.
Q. That's okay.
PAUL CASEY: I've got a meeting at 10.30.
I think the appeal is strong. You know, we don't have sort of one dominant player like I did when I was starting my career, but I think golf's cool. I think it's exciting. We don't have an issue.
I've always felt that golf has been kind of a niche sport. It doesn't occupy the majority of sports pages that other sports do. We can't compete with, whether it's football in Europe or football in America, or other big spores. Sports. But I think incredibly healthy. There's a lot of discussion about, you know, issues, does the golf ball go too far; it's kind of irrelevant stuff. I think golf courses closing, the industry is shrinking, participation is down I don't see the issue, I really don't.
It's fluid. Things will change. If you look at the range this week, we've got a top golfer out there and that's cool. The number of friends I have who play Topgolf, who will game, play some kind of computer game, golf game, will have some kind of fantasy golf league; they consider themselves a golfer. They might go to events, they might not have a clue to play golf around 18 holes or have desire to but are they golfers?
Yeah, they are golfers, because they buy into the sport and they like the sport. I don't think we have an issue. I think it's a really healthy situation.
It's obviously different from what it was a few years ago. I think the participants, my colleagues, my peers, are doing a great job. I think the tours are doing a great job with the tools they have, with the world the way it is.
You guys are doing a great job. It's all a big -- some of you (laughter).
Q. The argument would be, and you've lived through it, the argument would be that golf has a stronger appeal with a dominant figure.
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, I can see that. When Tiger teed it up the other day in the Bahamas when I was -- that evening, I was out having dinner with a couple of friends and all the TVs near the bar in the restaurant, yeah, they are tuning in to what Tiger did that day. I mean, totally different to what had happened for the months he hasn't been around.
Yeah, I get that. And reading some stuff lately, again, your peers, talking about we need a rivalry in golf. Yeah, I don't disagree with any of that, but as a whole, I think it's in a very healthy place. But could it be -- would these things help? Of course they would.
Q. What's the initial reaction been like from your fellow European Tour Members Tommy made a nice joking remark that you would have been his 11th choice as partner last week. I just wonder, are you taking a bit of stick or what's the reaction been?
PAUL CASEY: No, reaction's been fantastic. No, I don't receive stick (laughing).
Q. Welcoming then? Has it been welcoming?
PAUL CASEY: Amazing, yeah. Yeah, unlike anything I've ever experienced, because when you get on Tour, most players slowly creep on Tour. There's exemptions, obviously stand-out guys, but you slowly get out on Tour and you slowly build relationships and friendships and find your footing in the world of golf. Having been away, a lot of these guys I see obviously in the US, but the vast majority, I haven't.
I was here Monday, Tuesday, but specifically yesterday, was really cool. I got nothing done. My efficiency of work was rubbish yesterday because I was too busy saying hello to everybody. As I said, you don't know sort of what you've been away from unless you've been away. It's cool, quite sort of humbling in a way, a great response. I didn't know what to expect; would it be very quiet and it would go kind of unnoticed. It hasn't been that way.
I didn't do it to be satisfied, but it has been incredibly satisfying and very cool.
Q. Just thinking about your schedule, while obviously your reluctant to say where you would play, I was just wondering in the event of needing something towards the end of The Ryder Cup qualification period, whether you would be of a mind to add a European Tour event here or there to get you over the line?
PAUL CASEY: Have you seen the schedule?
PAUL CASEY: The U.S. schedule?
PAUL CASEY: It's tricky.
Q. Well, I realise; that's why I'm asking.
PAUL CASEY: When you start August and you go from WGC Bridgestone and then US PGA and then a week off and then three FedExCup events, a week off, TOUR Championship, week off -- no, straight into Ryder Cup, is that right. Hard to add another one.
Week before the WGC would be The Open Championship. It's just, I don't know. I'm looking at it going -- the answer is, I don't know. We will cross that bridge when we come to it.
It's doubly difficult for guys like some of the Swedish guys who need to play their National Championship. You know, how do you squeeze that in? I don't know how many I'm going to play; if I only play four, then I need to play my home event, my National Championship, or my English event, I believe, that's still the rule. If I don't, I need to play six.
Yeah, I'm on week two. Haven't thought that far ahead. I'd love to give you an answer but I don't know. I'm meeting with Pelley in 15 minutes. Might provide more clues. I don't know.
Q. Coming just back to this tournament, I don't know if you have gone out on the golf course and seen it. I just wanted to know your thoughts on if anything has changed and when you come back to an event where you have had such great success in the past, what kind of feelings do you have before the start of the event?
PAUL CASEY: The golf course looks superb. Played nine holes with Justin Rose yesterday, who is killing it. He's smashing it miles. Golf course, exceptional. There's a few changes. Holes like No. 4, the par 3, the green's been extended on the right which wasn't that way the last time I was here.
Boy, it seems long, like really long. I was thinking, how did I shoot that when I won on some of these holes. Having said that, the golf course we played last week was so tight, so it actually feels pretty generous off the tee for me which feels pretty good and the greens feel large.
No, good memories. I do know it incredibly well. It's amazing how shots you've hit -- I used to think I had a good memory and I used to remember a lot of golf shots; I clearly don't. When you come back to a golf course it kind of sparks those memories or it helps trigger memories, and that's what yesterday did a little bit.
I've always enjoyed -- I always base on, I I'll do that this year, I base my schedule on events I play well. So plain and simple: I get a nice, warm, fuzzy feeling about this golf course. Yes, it's very difficult. Winning score will not be ridiculously low this week. Depends on wind, if it gets windy, Thursday, Sunday, I'd expect a winning score, I don't know, 13-, 14-under, something like that. But it's cool. I love it.
Most exciting thing is just to get teeing off on Thursday, I think with Westwood and Danny Willett, great crowds that we always have here. Yeah, golf course is cool. I need to dig into the archives and look at some old notes. Johnny brought some old yardage books, see if I can rekindle that old form that I had around here.
Q. If you had to say one thing that has struck you most forcibly about coming back after your time away, what would it be?
PAUL CASEY: Don't know yet. I don't.
Q. I mean, anything. Brexit to the price of cost of living to the size of the golf ball, or anything.
PAUL CASEY: I thought you were being specific about this week.
Q. No. Specifically not this week, but just in general.
PAUL CASEY: Well, it's not like I've been, you know, completely off the planet in a space station for three years.
Q. You've been in exile.
PAUL CASEY: Apparently (laughter). I don't know. The world's so connected, John. It's like I've been away but I haven't. For me, it's just not seeing people for the three years. You know, some people haven't changed. Some people are looking very old.
Q. Thank you. (Laughter).
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, just it's been comedy seeing some of the players and some of the caddies, seeing who is still alive. Some, I thought he would have died by now (laughter).
Q. Shall I put you out of your misery; that's fine. I was hoping you would say something like Jeremy Corbin or Theresa May, Keith Pelley, anything. But if you're struggling, then don't worry.
PAUL CASEY: I'm intrigued. What were you hoping I was going to say?
Q. Like I said, I was hoping you would come up with something quite non-golfy because of your time, but it doesn't matter.
PAUL CASEY: Ask me again on Sunday.
Q. Welcome to our world.
PAUL CASEY: Wow (laughter).
MICHAEL GIBBONS: Anymore questions? And what a bizarre way to end but thank you, Mr. Casey. Good luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports