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March 30, 2010
JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome Paul Casey into the interview room, our defending champion at the Shell Houston Open. Paul, thanks for joining us for a few minutes. First of all, look back on the win last year and then if you'll talk a little bit about your preparations for this week.
PAUL CASEY: Win last year was great. First PGA Tour victory. Wasn't a tournament that I had on the radar until late in 2008. Actually a fellow competitor, fellow oil competitor's tournament, met a few very nice gentlemen from Houston, said you've got to come down with the golf course, you'll be well looked after. They were right.
Had an absolutely blast, enjoyed it. I ended up winning. I think the set-up was part of why I enjoy playing it so much with the very short grass and the way it's kind of set-up to try and prepare guys for next week, and everything clicked and ended up winning. So it was absolutely phenomenal. Can't believie it's been 12 months since last year.
JOHN BUSH: Your form coming into this week, you have four Top-10 finishes on PGA TOUR in as many starts and also some good play on the European Tour.
Comment on your year so far.
PAUL CASEY: It's been -- resultswise, it's been very good. No wins but still very happy with the way I've played. I'm still not quite swinging the golf club the way I would like to.
Having said that, I've been scoring, very, very well. It's. So it's bittersweet. You're -- not knowing what to expect after being injured in the latter half of last year, just sort of enjoying the golf and trying to get back into the swing of playing things and, as I said, the results have been great but there are still certain shots that I'm struggling to hit that normally are in the repertoire and the club is not quite in the position I'd like it to be.
I've been work pretty hard the last couple of weeks trying to get the club in a more neutral position. Wasn't able to hit a draw the last few weeks in Florida which is obviously something which I'm going to need to do this week and I'm going to need to do it next week as well if I want to contend.
JOHN BUSH: Questions?
Q. Paul, do you see any similarities between this course and Dubb Mountain where you've done really well the last two years as far as conditions, firmness of greens, that sort of thing?
PAUL CASEY: Actually I never thought about that. Everybody gets so focused on how this replicates the playing surface that's we'll face next week. I never thought about similarities between this and Ritz-Carlton, Dubb Mountain Golf Course.
Yeah, I guess it's firm and fast. It's certainly not the same. I'm not sure you can replicate -- "Randa Down" in Tucson there, the ball goes so far. We're up at altitude and this is very different through the trees with swirling winds.
You certainly got, you know, big green complexes around here which is somewhat similar but certainly from appearance sake, it's nothing like it.
Q. How much of an effect winning here last year had on your performance at Augusta the following week and would you be happy enough to win this week?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah, I'd be more than happy -- I'd love to win this week but I will admit that I think it took a little bit of steam out of me for the following week last year.
This tournament was a long tournament last year with the rain delays that we had and I think physically and emotionally it took a little bit out of me. If you don't have everything in place going into a Major then you're going to be found out and I think that showed where I finished in the field at Augusta the following week.
I think -- you know, if you look at results after winning tournaments in Europe, I have struggled slightly the following week Abu Dhabi and following up with Qatar. Winning in Abu Dhabi and missing the cut a couple times in Qatar.
Peter Kostis said to me, "You know, you're going to go and defend but you realize that, you know, I want you to be very much sort of ready for Augusta."
I said, "That's fine, But I'd love to be in the same position." I'd love to have a win under the belt and be teeing it up next week. If that's the case, hopefully I deal with it a little bit better and stay a little bit fresher.
Q. What did Kostis mean?
PAUL CASEY: To me, every time I tee it up -- right now this is the most important tournament in my mind, the Shell Houston Open. When I'm finished here then Augusta is the next thing in my mind.
He felt that I was hitting the golf ball really well last year and felt like maybe in a bittersweet sort of way that sort of took away, you know, some of the sort of -- the energy that I had for the Masters the following week but that's the way it was. I wouldn't trade it for anything. I wouldn't change anything.
So, he just wants me to be nice and fresh for next week. That's obviously -- for me, Majors are the things which register at the top of list of golf but this is the most important tournament for me right now.
Q. Obviously the weather delays had an impact last time but fingers crossed there won't be any such problems this time, Paul.
Are there other things that you can do this week that keep you competitive obviously for this week but keep next week in your mind?
PAUL CASEY: I think it's a little easier this time around. I know the golf course. I don't have to spend as much energy learning the golf course, learning the breaks on the greens.
We've had a fairly relaxing day today so far on the range, going to do quite a bit of putting this afternoon and have fun in the Pro-Am tomorrow and then be really ready to tee it up on Thursday.
You know, maybe that will help. Maybe sort of a low key sort of starts the week will help save the energy. I've got three weeks in a row starting next week. There's no point in -- kind of a bit of marathon. No point going out in the blocks so fast.
Q. You didn't go to Augusta this year, right? Was it is just not possible or --
PAUL CASEY: I must admit I had thought about it. I actually thought about flying down there even early this week, Monday, to sort of have a look at it.
It's a long way to go from Arizona. It doesn't seem like there's anything too drastic. I've read about some of the changes. I'm not going to panic about it. I think -- focusing on trying to -- keep saying it but the energy thing keeps coming up. I feel that's probably more important.
I know there's certain things, they widen the opening to the second green by 8 feet. Is that something that's really -- do I need to fly all the way over there to check a out a change like that? Maybe.
You can certainly get a lot of really good practice in. I'm very glad that I did it when I was -- the first couple of trips to Augusta was certainly great preparation, gave me lots of time and nice -- you can just wander around the golf course and take your time and learn it very, very well but now I've learned it. There's no drastic changes this year. I haven't felt that it's been a necessity.
Q. Have you had a chance to play this year out here yet?
PAUL CASEY: Not yet. Christian, my caddy, has walked around. We're going to save it for tomorrow morning.
Q. What works best for you ideally the week before the Major, to rest or to play?
PAUL CASEY: Don't know. In the past I've taken the week off before most of the Majors. U.S., PGA obviously everybody plays, Bridgestone. The Open the last few years I've traditionally taken the week off before that.
I think I done the same leading up to the Masters. I don't know. I haven't yet won a Major so when I do, whatever I do the week before maybe I'll continue to do that (laughter).
Q. You played great when you won the Match Play.
PAUL CASEY: What did Paddy do when he won his first? The third week in the row. Does he continue to do that?
Q. Stopped it this year.
PAUL CASEY: I don't know. There have been tournaments where I've won, I've been on a long stretch of tournaments. There's tournaments I've won where I've been fresh and haven't played in a while. I have no idea. I've tried to figure it out.
Q. What's your approach when you play practice rounds? Are you trying to focus on mechanical things or are you seeing what's going on with the course?
PAUL CASEY: I'm seeing what's going on with the golf course. If there's a couple of tricky shots I might need to practice for the week, then I'll work on it. It's certainly not -- I'm not thinking about anything other than how am I going to get around this golf course in as few a shots as possible when Thursday comes.
Q. Augusta next week, is your game ready for Augusta next week? Would you rather Augusta be this week or perhaps two weeks?
PAUL CASEY: No, I'll be ready, yeah. No.
Q. Ready to peak?
PAUL CASEY: Trying to peak at the right time. It's an ongoing thing trying to -- it's golf, though, isn't it, it's an ongoing quest to figure out the game?
So, you know, I'm certainly -- last week the practice was going pretty well. I was starting to hit the shots that I need to hit in order to play well around there. I'm looking forward to it, I really am.
Q. Moreso than other years, do you feel that opportunity knocks maybe for yourself or four a European golfer in the Major Championships this year moreso than other years and why?
PAUL CASEY: Why? Difficult to answer that why for other players. For myself I feel like I'm coming into -- I feel like I got my, I guess my sort of best years ahead of me. You know, I've had -- I've had some good performances in Majors before, especially the Masters, but I'm certainly a lot more mature now than -- obvious statement. I'm obviously more mature than I was before.
PAUL CASEY: I'm older, grayer. Yeah. I feel like the next eight, ten years, that's my big opportunity and, you know, it's been 1996 was the last time an Englishman won a Major? '99 was the last time a European, Olazabal, the Masters?
Q. You feel ready?
PAUL CASEY: I feel ready, yeah. I think there have been certain things in the past which maybe weaknesses in the game or not a -- in the past maybe something like simple, like it's not simple but like an acceptance of everything that will go with becoming a Major champion and sometimes something like that seems fairly trivial but that will hold you back as a player, you know, if you're not ready for that.
I feel ready for that. So, to me, now the next eight, ten years, that's -- I've got to capitalize on that because it's my opportunity now.
Q. So when did you feel that you had made that step then from not being ready to be ready? When did you realize that?
PAUL CASEY: I think probably sort of this time last year was really feeling very comfortable with the game, got the win here in Houston, things going in the right direction.
You know, something like moving up to 3 in the world and you go by one, two weeks, cracky, I'm 3 in the world. How does that happen?
I must admit I spent sort of a week or two thinking about it and then you go it's pretty cool. I'm happy to be Top-5 player in the world or Top-3 player or whatever that might be, and I'm happy with the pressure. I can handle this, I'm ready to go and perform every single week. I want to play against the best and try and beat the best.
Q. How did you come off from the injury? You were right up there. Suddenly, through not no fault of your own, you bombed out.
PAUL CASEY: It was kind of my fault. I'm very happy with where I am physically and I must admit I was worried about what that would mean where, you know, is there something I'm going to have to deal with for a long time or forever. Am I going to get my golf game back to where I was last year?
There were lots of questions and, you know, it was great motivation sitting on the sofa watching guys like McIlroy and Westwood go head to head in Dubai, but I desperately wanted to be a part of that and I wasn't sure whether I would be, whether I would be, you know, in the future.
So, I'm very happy. I've learned a lot about myself but also my body physically and why that happened, the problems -- there's a reason why I tore the muscles because of certain area of the body, shoulders are not moving the way it should be, putting stress on other parts of the body.
So with a bit of luck, you know, I can prevent stuff like that happening in the future and have a long career and a healthy career.
So in a roundabout way maybe it was a good thing it happened then and I'm still at an age where I can deal with it and get back to it.
Q. Do you think the psychology is different for guys heading into this Masters because since it feels like the beginning of time there was a guy who was overwhelming favorite, who is now more of an unknown quantity going around? Do you think that changes the feeling with people?
PAUL CASEY: I don't know. I haven't talked to -- I haven't got the feeling of what the players are thinking since it's been announced that -- I presume you're talking about Tiger coming back at Augusta.
As Derrick mentioned to me on the range, there are guys like John Cook saying Tiger is playing the best golf he's every seen. He's going to win hands down. So, I don't know.
I think guys are very much focused on their own game and to me it's always about conquering -- not conquer, but do your best against that golf course and the best against yourself because that golf course, as beautiful as it is, can be fairly relentless at times so that's, I think, what the guys are focusing on right now.
I don't think they're too worried too much whether Tiger comes back as he was before or unknown as you said. We just don't know. There's nothing we can do to worry about it.
Q. Tiger won before. He obviously doesn't win it every year.
PAUL CASEY: There's no point worrying about something that you can't control.
JOHN BUSH: Couple more.
Q. It was hard building on a win last year going to the Masters. What do you think it's like for Ernie and Freddie who are on rolls two and three to try and --
PAUL CASEY: I've not been one of those guys who has managed to string wins together, unfortunately, as much as I would love to get on a roll like Ernie and Freddie, I've never been able to do that.
I think those guys could be very, very dangerous and, you know, if you look at somebody like Freddie, I think Freddie has still got the game to challenge at Augusta, maybe even win it. If he plays that level of golf next week, he's going to surprise a lot of people.
Q. Paul, what do you think the growing popularity of this tournament is because in the past it's been said that a lot of players stayed away because of its proximity to the Masters?
PAUL CASEY: This is only my second time here so not knowing, not really knowing anything about this tournament until I teed it up last year, it's difficult to sort of see how much it's changed through the years.
What I do know is it is talked about a lot amongst the players. The main thing is the course set-up, how the course sets up in preparation for next week and I'm a big fan of that because it seems like we play too many golf courses where the rough is thick, brutal, you're chipping out with a wedge.
It's just nice to play a golf course with a different set-up. So even guys who maybe aren't in Augusta next week, they quite enjoy the change, gives you lots of options and you can be creative about that which I think is a good thing.
Of course, gives I think -- it really opens it up to a lot of guys in this field to possibly win this week.
Q. Can you expand on that, the set-up that they like so much?
PAUL CASEY: The lack of rough around here. Go walk out there, you'll see firm and fast greens and, you know, you're not going to be searching for golf balls the rough.
You'll see where it is. You'll see a couple of fliers. You're going to give them options and allow them to hit creative golf shots. If they pull them off, great. There's also lots of danger around this golf course.
Q. Knowing how difficult it is to go into Augusta on the back of a win, can you fathom how difficult it might be to try and win at Augusta without having played a tournament in five months?
PAUL CASEY: Yeah -- no (laughter). I mean I get nervous teeing it up in Abu Dhabi after not playing for a month.
Q. What was it like after your rib injury when you first played after that?
PAUL CASEY: Well, I tried to play -- well, yeah, in Tiger's event, Chevron. Yeah. I was pretty -- well, I was nervous on two fronts. One, whether the rib was going to stay in one piece and must stay together and, two, what's going to happen? Am I going to shrank it around? Am I going to put a couple of balls in the crowd and is this going to be embarrassing? What's going to happen?
It was very difficult for me to focus on -- I had to try very hard to focus on what I was trying to do rather than worrying about what could possibly happen, you know.
I've been -- you've seen my career. I've been in places when you start to think about where is this going to go, you start to think about that stuff instead of what I want to do with the golf ball, then it gets sketchy. It's not a good place to be in and I find it difficult to get into the correct thinking if I haven't played much.
So I couldn't possibly imagine what it would be like teeing up at Major Championship after a five month break, but it's Tiger so I have a sneaky feeling he'll be absolutely fine.
Q. Paul McGinley came back a couple weeks ago.
JOHN BUSH: Paul, thanks for coming by. Good luck as you go for No. 2 at Redstone.
End of FastScripts