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January 21, 2007
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
GORDON SIMPSON: First of all we should congratulate Paul, the winner of the second Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Congratulations, Paul, well done. Last time most of us saw you were feeling despondent at Valderrama, but I imagine your feelings are somewhat different this time having a nice win under your belt.
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, but you didn't see me at Valderrama because I didn't stay. I did a runner! Yeah, this is a great way to start 2007. You know, it's sort of Catch 22 because I feel like I haven't had a lot of time off, played all the way up to the end of 2006 with Tiger's event and then here we are pretty early on in January back in Abu Dhabi, so three weeks between then and now. I had a good holiday and then two weeks working very, very hard with Peter Kostis. Very happy I put the hard work in, so this is a great way to start it.
GORDON SIMPSON: I suspect you have high expectations of yourself every time you step on the tee but did you think a win was in the locker this early?
PAUL CASEY: Not at beginning of the week. The beginning of the week it was really just to -- I genuinely wanted to see if I could try to win one of these three out here in the Middle East. I thought I had the game and the hard work had been done. To win the first one is beyond my expectation.
The first round was fairly slow, it was a tough day but 1-under isn't really great golf. From there it really just kicked off, because I struggled around this golf course last year, and not a lot has changed. A couple of new tees and a few new bunkers, but apart from that it's pretty much the same golf course. It's ecstatic to get better every single day and to finish it off with a 65, even though it was a blemish on the last, very happy with the way I played.
Q. How would you rate this final round of golf, a 65, to others that won you a tournament in your career?
PAUL CASEY: As far as professional rounds go, probably my finest final round I would say. I played some really good golf at The Match Play, but that's not the same situation. Stroke play is very different. I had numerous -- my best ever final round was a 60 back in college days, and I was eight back and won by two. It was a par 70 but even so. I did throw in a bogey that day as well so maybe that's the trend I've got going. That was a Pac-10, at Broadmoor in Seattle, Washington, I beat Joel Kriebel.
So, no, I haven't shot a round of golf like that since I've been professional in a final round, and I think that's something that's disappointed me before is I haven't played a great golf in final round, and today I was keen to do that.
GORDON SIMPSON: Is that something that you have to learn, to close out tournaments?
PAUL CASEY: I always felt like I'm capable of closing out tournaments but they haven't necessarily been with a 65.
Then again, I was pushing all the way. Every birdie I made, I felt like, you know, Miguel and Padraig were right behind me. So it's nice when you're pushed. I always think it's easier to chase. When I got in front, it was certainly difficult to make a birdie, but yeah, by far this is the best round of golf, final one I've had in a long, long time.
Q. Can you talk about 13. You took three wood?
PAUL CASEY: I had taken the 3-wood off 13 all week, and no, I didn't change the game plan at any stage today. I hit the same clubs off the tee I had been hitting all week and the wind stayed pretty much the same which was pretty nice. Made it a lot easier to figure out what to do. However, it was a tricky wind, there are a lot of crosswinds out there.
When I had a perfect yardage, and the right club in the hands, I felt like I put a really good swing on it and that was evidenced on holes like 11 and 16, both 9-irons into those two holes. And they were stuck pretty close for birdie. And at any time slightly in between I had to play safe and go to the middle of the green, and that's what I did on some of the closing holes. I'm a good putter and felt like I always had a chance.
Q. Let's get the 3-putt at the last over with.
PAUL CASEY: You can indeed. I missed a shorter one yesterday. I don't feel like I put a bad stroke on it. The grain is very, very strong here and I don't practise in grain. I don't play in the grain, in grainy greens in Arizona, nor in the U.K. It certainly requires a slightly different style and you know, it's certainly something I could get used to, and I got better as the week went on but the first one took off a little bit. I felt like if I made that, they couldn't catch me.
Q. How far was it?
PAUL CASEY: About five feet too long. You know, I didn't think about it. Yesterday was a combination of poor stroke and not -- which was I think brought on by not reading the grain correctly and today I felt like I put a decent stroke on it and sent the golf ball where I wanted it to and it came straight back off the putter face and it started inside right and went left of the hole.
Q. Can you talk about the par 5, last hole?
PAUL CASEY: Miguel at that stage was 17 and we were tied and I felt like he could well birdie 18. He kindly bogeyed 17, sorry, I didn't see any of it and fortunately it turned out great for me.
But I was annoyed and frustrated, I think frustrated because I had played such a great round of golf until then; frustration that could have cost me the golf event, but also it was an upsetting way, a disappointing way to finish a round of golf, because the first 17 holes were really good.
Q. What were the keys to the week for you?
PAUL CASEY: I felt like I had very good control of the golf ball. I felt like I swung well within myself. At no point was I pushing or -- I mean, I was nervous. It was competition half going but I was very calm. I had a lot of half-shots which I played pretty well and that's something I've tried to get better at. I've always been good at hitting it hard, but it's the in-between yardages that I've struggled.
Q. Which shots stand out the most?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, and I cut the tee shot off the tee as well, hit a high one off the tee. Yeah, it was about 260 to the front and 280 to the flag.
The drive wasn't the impressive bit. I thought the 3-wood was better. It was at least 265 to get to the front edge and 280 to the flag and almost pin-high, which is pretty good for a 3-wood off the deck in a slight crosswind.
And the shot I think I was happiest with was the 5-iron from the bunker on 17. That was a poor tee shot, thought it was relatively safe, and I didn't mean to hit it in the bunker. It was an awkward stance and a bit in front of me. I hit a very hard 5-iron and I don't think I could have done that if I had not put in the work with Peter in the off-season, both sort of fitness and swing.
Q. Why were you feeling so intense?
PAUL CASEY: I think the reason I felt intense was I had one week off, I was looking for a holiday and he wasn't going to let me have that. I owe a lot with Peter because he's worked with me my entire professional career, and, you know, he's seen the highs and lows, and he was instrumental to turning my game around in the past year and a half, two years.
Last year's success, I mean, I've got to hit the golf ball, but he was firmly pushing me. So, you know, without him, thing like this wouldn't happen.
So I truly believe that, you know, if I had not put the work in, if he had not pushed me in the last couple of weeks, I would not be sitting here right now.
Q. Did you think you had a win coming at the beginning of the week?
PAUL CASEY: Well, it started off slow this week, but I just think I felt more and more comfortable with this golf course, more and more comfortable with the work I've put in on the game, and I had a good -- made a good job with Peter in setting my goals as I've gone along. And yesterday the goal was to get to 10-under and shoot 67, and I did that. And we talked about goals last night and we thought a win was possible if I played good golf. I didn't know it had to be 65. (Laughing).
Q. How nerve wracking was it with Jiménez playing so well behind you?
PAUL CASEY: It always makes me nervous, especially Jiménez is such a gritty player. He knows how to win golf events.
You know, I expect Jiménez to have a year like he had a couple of years ago where he had multiple wins. He's clearly been working very hard at the game, but he's one of Europe's best as he's shown in tournaments all around the world. Yeah, he makes me nervous when he's right behind me.
Q. Did you look at any leaderboards today, and what is your schedule coming up?
PAUL CASEY: I did look at leaderboards on the way around. Why not, you've got to know what you've got to try and do. I don't like looking at them when you're in the leadm but when you're chasing, it's great. It's always nice to look at them as well when you're playing good golf.
So right from the start, I was aware of what was going on. And you could hear, everybody walks around with radios here which is great, so you know what is going on, but you can hear people talking. So I knew Jiménez had made birdie on 17 before it even went up on the leaderboard, you can tell from the crowd's reaction, which is kind of cool.
And my schedule, I'm in Qatar next week, and I'll be in Dubai and a couple of weeks off before the Match Play.
Q. Is there a feeling of a gentlemanly rivalry with you and Padraig Harrington?
PAUL CASEY: You said that, I didn't. As I said yesterday, I always keep an eye on him because I think he's Europe's hardest worker. I try and emulate that and try and work as hard as he does. I respect Padraig. He's higher in the World Ranking than I am and anything I can try and learn from him, I try to and do. There isn't a rivalry there. Padraig I think mentioned in the press yesterday, there's lots of other people we've got to worry about. If he's too busy worried about what I'm doing and I'm too busy worried about what he's doing, you'll get overtaken by everybody else.
I think European golf is great. Stellar players, a lot of talent coming through. You know, hopefully one of us can breakthrough and win a major sooner or later.
Q. You mentioned the other day about Tiger's intensity - did you have that today?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, that was pretty good today. Tiger wouldn't have 3-putted the last, though. He would have holed it. But I was, yeah, very happy with the way I handled myself all week. Maybe I didn't smile as much as I usually do but I was intent on trying to get this done, trying to chase those guys and put in a good round.
So I'm not going to say I've figured it out, but you know, it was a nice step towards where I want to get and where I think -- the sort of golf I can play.
Q. Do you have an example, like 13, of work you have done with Peter when you say you couldn't have done it this week without the work you did?
PAUL CASEY: I put that down to probably strength training probably, stuff I've done at the gym and just had the confidence in my swing and ability to get that ball out of the bunker, it was almost 180 to the front edge into the wind. I probably wouldn't have tried it before. I would have taken a 6-iron or 7-iron and chipped it out just short of the green.
It's difficult to say how it helped necessarily that shot. I just think he's so good at pushing me. He made sure I had written down my goals before I came out here. He's quick to say if I'm not up for working on a particular day, he's going to be the first to tell me to go home and take a day off. But when we go to the golf course we work. It's not a job, it's pretty cool to be able to do this, but it's serious stuff when we're out there.
Q. About importance of the tournaments in the Gulf?
PAUL CASEY: How important, I think every tournament's important. This is -- I haven't really thought about how important it is, but I think it's fabulous that we get the opportunity to come and play great golf courses in good weather with good crowds.
Q. What do you think about playing in the Middle East ?
PAUL CASEY: Well I think, first of all, clearly we can't play in Europe right now. You wouldn't want to. So we've got to find somewhere to play. It is a very, very long year, and I like to play all over the world, experience new cultures, new venues. I think it's wonderful that this sort of Middle East swing is going, and I think more and more guys, if they haven't been out here, should come out here because it's top-notch golf.
The golf course, I have to confess, they had a calling card in the clubhouse, how to improve the tournament and they asked about the golf course, any improvements. And I said you should make the fairway bunkers deeper. Looking back now, that bunker on 17 was just deep enough.
Q. Your thoughts on the tournament?
PAUL CASEY: I think this is first class. Last year's event was fantastic. It was quality field, great golf course, the usual requirements you need for putting on a first-class event but this year it's just so much better. This year it's really polished.
You know, coming down 18, you just look at the scene with the corporate boxes on the left, the grandstands, the scoreboards, the branding was right. I hoped it looked as good on TV as it looked standing on the middle of the fairway because this is what it's all about. This is a world-class event and I think everyone involved should be very, very proud with what they put on this week.
Q. What major do you think you have the best chance of winning?
PAUL CASEY: I think the Masters is the one that suits my game the best, the reason being that I feel like I drive the ball very well. I have the ability to hit long, soft irons and the golf course has gotten longer over years and you need to be able to do that. You need to be able to have very good control of your ball flight. Have to eliminate the 3-putts, but I have time to work on that before April. That's probably the one.
The others, you know, the Open Championship is the one I would love to win. But, you know, requires, again, they all require good ball-striking and certain elements. You've got to have everything in place to win a major championship. But Augusta is probably the one that suits my game the best.
GORDON SIMPSON: Congratulations again, Paul, and look forward to seeing you next year.
End of FastScripts