NORTON, Mass. — The question, at its roots, really was based on a compliment, backhanded as it might have been.
It was asked of Paul Casey just minutes after he’d completed a third consecutive 5-under 66 at the Deutsche Bank Championship that gave him a 3-stroke lead entering Monday’s final round.
This is the same Paul Casey who once was ranked as high as third in the entire world, the same player who owns 13 career victories on the European Tour, the same one who has cashed nearly $30 million in professional tournament earnings alone.
It’s also the same Casey who is making his 194th career PGA Tour start this week and somehow, someway, has only one career title on United States soil. It’s true: While his résumé shows five career runner-up finishes on the PGA Tour, three third-place results and three dozen top-10s, his lone victory remains the 2009 Shell Houston Open.
And so, with all of that information at our disposal, knowing what a talented player the 39-year-old Casey has been for so many years, the question really was rooted in a compliment.
“Why haven’t you won more over here?”
Rather than chafe at the insinuation or make excuses, Casey mowed down the question like so many putts he has rolled in on the TPC Boston greens this week.
“I think early in my career, admittedly, there was a couple of fairly good players that seemed to be dominating,” he answered. “Goodness knows how many wins Tiger [Woods] and Phil [Mickelson] and then there’s others. I’m sure Ernie [Els] thinks he could have about 10 majors if it wasn’t for those two, as well. There’s lots of guys. What an era to play in. I’m proud that I played in that period of time. Got to play with Tiger. I saw some amazing stuff and I hope that I see that again.”
Casey didn’t stop there, though. He added that for much of his career, when he was playing PGA Tour events, it was against the best of the best.
“A lot of the time when I was playing in the U.S., I would only play 15 events and those were majors, World Golf events, Bay Hill, Memorial. Basically, everywhere Tiger was. It was tough. So there wasn’t a lot of opportunity is what it felt like. You play some good golf, you get top-10s and just get blown out of the water by what feels like the greatest ever, which I’m fine for that period.”
He didn’t leave it there. With Woods on the shelf and those dominant players less dominant in recent years, he attempted to offer a rationale for what is now a seven-year winless streak.
“Recently, I’ve got no excuse. I’m almost looking like it’s a second chance, wherever that cutoff point is, say, a couple of years ago or something like that. It’s now time to try and correct that statistic or double that number of wins, and then triple it, whatever it might be. I don’t know the reason. I can give you the answer for the first part right now. The last two or three years, no excuse. But I’ve been doing a lot of hard work so let’s hope it pays off.”
The subject has taken on even more relevance this year, as Casey has controversially given up his European Tour membership to focus solely on playing the PGA Tour. That move has kept him from becoming eligible for the European Ryder Cup team, but it has allowed him the luxury of not having to travel back and forth across the Atlantic on a regular basis.
It’s a luxury that he felt was a necessity at this point in his life.
“Lifestyle is totally different, and that’s something I can’t emphasize enough,” he said. “Having said that, I still missed my little guy’s second birthday on Wednesday. There’s still things I miss. … There’s still things we’re missing and it hurts, but it’s way better than it was, and so that’s wonderful.”
On Monday, Casey will attempt to not only double that PGA Tour career victory total, but justify his decision to play in the U.S. full-time.
That second win has been long elusive, and surprising that it hasn’t come quicker.
Casey doesn’t have an excuse — or even a reason — for why he hasn’t won in the past few years. He’s hoping, though, that after the final round, he’ll no longer need one.