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Paul Casey
Paul Casey knew his British Open quest was over when he drove into a huge gorse bush on the 12th hole Sunday. (Getty Images)

No one was going to stop Oosthuizen, says philosophical Casey

On a day when he thought he could win his first major, Paul Casey ended up barely within eyesight of the Claret Jug. Yet as annoyed as Casey was with his finish, he was equally pleased with himself the way he approached Open week at St. Andrews.

By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.com Correspondent

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- Paul Casey knew when he hit it in the gorse bush on the 12th hole.

That was game, set, match.

Definitely wasn’t anywhere close to his day. Absolutely wasn’t his week.

He was playing for second -- victory had been a reach since missing putts at the first and second holes -- and he knew it.

And when he hit a perfect 6-iron just left of the flag at 16 that hit the top of the ridge and could have settled 15 feet from the pin? It rolled all the way down into a valley.

“At that point, I was like, okay, clearly I've …” Casey paused and conjured up a wry grin. “Back away from the sharp objects.”

Same at 18 when the perfect tee shot rolled into the Valley of Sin. Not the middle, mind you. The toughest spot. Par instead of birdie. A share of third at this 139th British Open instead of a share of second.

Frustrated? Seriously.

On a day when he thought he could put the pressure on Louis Oosthuizen, a day when he thought he would put his own major questions to rest, Casey found himself losing ground to guy playing in a seriously different league.

“Even if you take away the mistakes I made,” Casey said, “the couple of 7s I've had this week, I don't think it was good enough to get near Louis.”
 
He wasn’t alone.

It certainly wasn’t Tiger Woods at the 1997 Masters or 2000 U.S. Open, but when you take a four-shot lead into the final round and find yourself up by eight with seven to play …

“No one was going to stop him,” Casey said. “He was superb.”

Casey, runner-up Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy and Henrik Stenson simply weren’t.

“If I put him under some pressure, it could have been different,” Casey said. “But it was done at that stage.  In fact, I'm not sure if I put him under pressure he would have flinched at all because he didn't miss a shot today.

“I don't think he's missed a shot all week.  I'm sure he's hit golf shots into places he didn't want to, but he didn't sort of react to anything negatively and had a great attitude and did what he needed to do.”

Casey had to be perfect and wasn’t. He had to play better than he ever had a major. He was the man closest to the leader; the 10th-ranked player in the world. A guy who came in with four top-10s in majors -- the best a tie for sixth at the 2004 Masters; a player who needed to stand up and contend.

“He had two bad swings in 65 holes,” said swing coach Peter Kostis.

That was more than enough.

As annoyed as Casey was with himself at the 12th hole, he was equally pleased with himself the way he approached the week. A great links fan growing up, he went away from it when he moved to the United States to play the PGA TOUR, and he and Kostis worked overtime to get him back in the right frame of mind for St. Andrews.

“We spent a lot of time embracing links golf and all that is,” Kostis said. One bump, one turn and a great shot is a kerfuffle and you’re looking to find a creative way out.

“I had fun on a links course because it's been a while since I've enjoyed myself around a links course,” Casey said. “I used to love it, and I probably got very frustrated with it the last few years, and this week I had an absolute blast.

“I don't know whether that was because it was St. Andrews or whether it was I just relaxed a bit and went back to what I grew up doing, creating shots and accepting that sometimes a 5-iron from 120 yards is the club you've got to hit.”

In a way, Casey felt blessed just to be here. He tore his rib muscles at the World Golf Championship-Bridgestone Invitational last year, then tore them again at the HSBC Champions. “I’ll be honest,” he said, “it was scary. I was very worried about it.  I thought, is this something I'm going to be battling the rest of my career?  Am I done?  Will I ever be pain free?  I had no idea.”

He came back this spring and threw out five top-10s, then missed the cut at the Masters and finished tied for 40th at the U.S. Open. Now this.

His best Open was a share of seventh at Birkdale in 2008. He was four back, a world-class player going up against a journeyman. A chance to put any questions to rest. A chance to be the first Englishman since Nick Faldo in 1992 to win a British Open.

Instead, he was forced to settle for his best finish in a major, to thinking ahead to next month -- the Bridgestone Invitational and the PGA Championship at Whistling Straits -- and falling a little bit harder for St. Andrews.

“Yeah, St. Andrews,” he said. “I mean, it dealt me .. I still go back to what Tom Watson said earlier this week about what she gives away today, she'll take back tomorrow.  She took a little bit back from me today.”

He smiled. It wasn’t easy, but he did.

He cracked a few one-liners. He tried to be upbeat. He grimaced. He accepted what he didn’t do and what Oosthuizen did.

“I'm trying to take the positives out of this because six months ago, no idea if I was going to get back to this sort of form again,” he said, pausing to reflect.

 “And you know, I know I'm going to win a major, it's just a matter of time. This week just wasn't my week.”

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