Englishman Paul Casey knows what it’s like to win at Pebble Beach – sort of. On those days when he ventures to the first tee at one of the most scenic golf courses in the land, a plaque on the wall reminds him that he and FedEx President/CEO Don Colleran captured the two-person pro-am title at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am two years ago.
Casey, 43, would really like to complete a Pebble “double” by winning the individual title. He is in good shape headed to the weekend on the heels of a 5-under-par 67 at Pebble Beach on Friday. At 9-under 135, he trails leader Jordan Spieth (67, Spyglass) by three shots heading into the weekend.
Don’t tell Casey’s annual pro-am partner, he pleads with a grin, but selfishly, he was looking forward to four days of pro-only play at Pebble Beach and Spyglass, just to whet his appetite of curiosity. With two courses in the tournament rota, not three (Monterey Peninsula normally would be in the mix), it means more quality Pebble time for those making the 36-hole cut.
“Three rounds at Pebble Beach? I’m not going to turn that down,” said Casey, who was a runner-up to Phil Mickelson at the AT&T in 2019, witnessing Mickelson’s fifth victory at the event. “I’d love to win at Pebble Beach. It’s one of those iconic places to be a champion. Everyone would love to hoist a trophy here.”
Casey arrived to the Monterey Peninsula having traveled 40 hours after competing in Saudi Arabia last week. Casey said he was mentally spent at the end of 2020, and could not wait to turn the page into a new year. In 2021 he has felt refreshed, and his play has shown it. He tied for eighth at the American Express, then ventured to the Middle East, where he won in Dubai (his 15th European Tour title) and tied for 12th in Saudi Arabia.
The 12-hour time difference from the Middle East to Northern California has his personal clock a little off. On Thursday night, Casey said he was in bed and asleep by 7:30 p.m. (“My kids stay up later than that,” he quipped.) But his legs feel strong and he has played quite nicely over two rounds at the AT&T. There is no reason not to expect more of the same. Winning in Dubai, and winning so early in the new year, has given him a tremendous boost.
“I feel like the goals that I’ve set are now kind of attainable, and I’m on the right trajectory to start ticking those off,” he said. “So I feel great. The energy is good because of that. I’m excited. I’m loving my golf.”
On Friday he managed six birdies against a lone bogey, chipping in not once, but twice, including a treacherous downhill pitch holed for birdie-3 from behind the eighth green. Playing alongside was Mickelson. “First time I’ve ever chipped in more times than Phil Mickelson when I’ve played with him, so I’m ticking that box,” Casey said.
Yes, Casey is on a mighty good run.