Life still good for Casey, despite loss
CROMWELL, Conn. -- The rain finally stopped Sunday, but the only rainbow Paul Casey would find was the one in his wife, Pollyanna's, hair.
"It was just a spontaneous moment about two days ago," Pollyanna said. "I thought I'm not on the telly at the moment, so it doesn't matter what I do with my hair. And then Paul goes and does this. I'm like, 'Oh, well never mind.' "
Pollyanna Woodward could walk around in relative anonymity even in the carnival atmosphere of the final round of the Travelers Championship. It wasn't until the CBS cameras caught her in the scorer's trailer with Casey and their 9-month old son, Lex, that golfing fans caught a glimpse of that blond hair dyed with, well, every color of the rainbow. Unicorn hair is how she described it on Twitter.
Pollyanna is much better known in Britain for having been a television presenter on "The Gadget Show." She gave birth to Lex on Sept. 1, and Casey won the Dutch Open two weeks later at Kennemer Golf Club in Zandvoort. She was not there.
"First tournament as a dad, first win as a dad," Casey said that day in the Netherlands. "I'm absolutely over the moon."
Over the moon is about where his third shot of the second playoff hole landed at about 7 p.m. Sunday. The shot killed any chance Casey had of winning his first PGA Tour victory since 2009. The shot hand-delivered two-time Masters champ Bubba Watson his second Travelers title and the eighth tour title of his career.
As he did in 2013, Watson frittered away a lead in the closing holes. This time he didn't chastise his caddie. This time he lost a three-shot lead with three holes to play and rebounded big time with a birdie on the second playoff hole to seal his $1.52 million triumph. Watson is a long-hitter, for sure. He also should be known as OT Bubba. The man is 5-1 in playoffs. In a year where we lost four-time champion Billy Casper, Watson becomes the seventh multiple champion of Connecticut's signature sports event.
Make no mistake. Bubba is the face on the red umbrella tournament now.
Casey, who shot a 5-under 65 Sunday to force a playoff at 16-under, put his second shot in the bunker to the right of the 18th green three successive times. He got the ball within 4 feet on the 72nd hole and earned his par. He got the ball to 4 feet on the first playoff hole and earned his par. The third time most certainly wasn't the charm. It was a moon ball that not only cleared the green, but it flew up the embankment and hit WFSB sportscaster Marc Robbins in the chest before dropping on the asphalt path in front of the hospitality tents.
"I was going to catch it," Robbins said, "but then I realized it was in play."
After a drop, Casey put the ball 28 feet past the cup. He was done. There was no joy in TPC Mudville. Mighty Casey has struck out.
"It's sticky in there, [the sand] was clay-like with the rain," Casey said. "The upslope didn't help. In regulation, it was much easier because it was flat. I just got cute with it. The error was the tee shot ... but it is done now."
There was a whole lot of nothing going on for much of the day. Even the CBS announcers were saying things like, "We need some fireworks" and "Nobody is doing anything." Casey had provided the biggest thrills to that point with a spectacular 52-degree wedge shot from 126 yards that bounced once and into the third hole for an eagle. He also sank a putt from halfway down Silas Deane Highway, actually 64 feet, to birdie the eighth. But it looked like Bubba was going to string together 16 consecutive pars to win.
Then Casey birdied the 14th, 16th and 17th holes. He bogeyed the 15th. Bubba looked like he had it won after an eagle on the 13th, but he hit two lousy shots to bogey the 17th. It turned into a thrill a minute.
"It's disappointing not to play 18 very well today, but I played a great round of golf," said Casey, who started the fourth round three shots off the lead. "I really didn't think I had that much of a chance. I thought I had to do something special. I thought Bubba and those guys were just going to stretch it out and make birdies. But when the eagle went in on 3, it changed things.
"I thought it was a really tough course today. I'm proud of the way I played. I could have played a little bit better. There are always ifs and buts and could have beens. But the goal this week was to give myself a chance to win. I did that."
Yet for all his late golf heroics, he didn't could pull off the latest golf heroics. His tee shot on the 72nd hole landed in the juicy grass on the upslope. He put the next shot in the bunker. His tee shot on the 18th in the first playoff hole appeared to be a really good one down the fairway, but it caught Casey between clubs.
"A 7-iron would have never made it, and I'm trying to take maybe 10 yards off the 6-iron, which is a lot to take off a 6-iron," Casey said. "I just made a poor swing. If we had maybe a really nice number there or the wind had [been blowing] ... there was no wind. It was awkward."
Casey, 37, had never played this tournament. He has only one PGA Tour win, but he has 13 on the European Tour. He has played the Ryder Cup. He has six Top 10 finishes in the majors. In 2009, Casey rose as high as third in the world rankings. Before this season, he also had not notched a Top 10 finish since claiming only one in 2011. He has four Top 5 finishes this season and six in the Top 10.
Yet after 15 years on the PGA Tour, he had never played the Travelers. He didn't know anything about the course. What he did know, he said, was the players' talking about how great they are treated at TPC River Highlands during the tournament.
"There were a lot of people pulling for me as well [as Bubba]," Casey said. "I had people saying all sorts of things out there. This is a wonderful event, and so brilliantly supported by everybody in the Hartford area, but I think with a few New Yorkers and Bostonians in there. What a great venue. Not being here before, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
"I really like the drivable par-4s. The greens are wonderful. This may be the best TPC I've played."
The noise didn't bother him. Some guys lose late on Sunday and then lose their temper. A few even lose their dignity. Casey was all class.
"It's great," Casey said. "Apart from the guy shouting, 'Getting the umbrella down!' the first time we came through. Hey, it's a Travelers umbrella. This time it was getting in the way. I think that's fun. I really do. You wouldn't want it all 72 holes. But when you're coming into a playoff situation like that, that's exactly what you expect. I played Ryder Cups and big matches. I love that side it. If I didn't enjoy it, I wouldn't do this."
That doesn't mean what happened early Sunday evening didn't hurt. Of course, it hurt. This is no Pollyanna story. There is some harsh reality.
"Something like this is always disappointing," said Casey, who won $691,200. "I've won enough around the world to know what winning feels like. I also know what coming in second feels like. I've done a lot of that.
"My little boy [Lex] behind you, 20 yards away, sucking his finger. I look at him. It kind of makes everything pale in comparison. So I'm disappointed in myself. But I've got a great life and a great family."
Minutes later, Pollyanna was putting Lex in the rental vehicle outside the clubhouse. She had a minute to talk. She has appeared in British television shows. "The Gadget Show" centered on consumer technology. She was a finalist in the Miss England pageant, too. Both had been married before. She met Casey at the Formula 1 Chequered Flag Ball at the 2011 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
"I'm out here for Paul. It has nothing to do with me," she said. "You know, it would have been the first time he would have won while I was out here. It was quite nerve wracking and quite intense. I love watching him play regardless."
Casey wasn't over the moon on Sunday, only his shot was. Life still is good.