Interview reproduced courtesy of Society Living Magazine
AT NUMBER THREE IN THE WORLD (AT TIME OF PUBLISHING) PAUL CASEY WILL BE THE HIGHEST RANKED PLAYER COMPETING IN THE VOLVO WORLD MATCH PLAY AT FINCA CORTESÍN THIS MONTH, AND KEEN TO JOIN AN ELITE GROUP OF PLAYERS TO HAVE WON THE TITLE MORE THAN ONCE (HE WAS VICTORIOUS IN 2006). HE SPEAKS EXCLUSIVELY TO SOCIETY LIVING ABOUT HIS CAREER, AND YEAR, SO FAR – AND HIS GOALS FOR THE FUTURE
How and why did you start playing golf, and what has been the biggest influence on your career? My dad introduced me to golf. I loved playing all sports from an early age but started to focus on golf as I got older. Dad is still really involved in the amateur game in England. My coach, Peter Kostis, has been a big influence on me in recent years.
Your favourite course in the world and why? Cypress Point – if you see a picture of the 16th and 17th you’ll understand why.
How do you feel you are playing right now – at least before you had to pull out of the BMW Championship (on the US PGA Tour)? Of course, after three wins I was really happy with the way I was playing before I hurt myself. It is very frustrating to have to take time out injured when you have been playing and performing great and especially at such a crucial time in the season. Still, you can look at it either way: it would obviously be a lot worse if I had a terrible season and then had to sit out for a couple of months without the opportunity to get out there and turn it around. I just want to make sure I don’t rush coming back – intercostal muscles take quite a bit of time to heal and you can easily set yourself right back to square one if you aren’t careful.
When did you realise you had made it? That’s a tricky question. I think while you are always aiming for new goals or to improve yourself you never sit back and think, “Well done me, I‘ve made it.” Until I achieve all that I believe I am capable of, and that includes some majors wins, I don’t think I will ever consider that I have totally made it. I am obviously proud of what I have achieved so far, including my tournament wins, Ryder Cup achievements and reaching world number three – they are all great, but I still believe I can achieve so much more.
Can you describe your typical training routine… Both at tournaments and when I am at home I go to the gym regularly. I like the discipline of it and I think it helps my confidence to know I am physically fit as well as having a positive impact on my concentration, as I don’t get so tired. It is also important to prevent injuries. I do a mixture of cardiovascular and weight training, all specially devised programmes designed with my golf in mind.
The highlight of your golfing career, and why? It is impossible to say – golf has given me so many amazing moments. Being part of two winning Ryder Cup sides and winning my first ever pro event at Gleneagles was an exciting landmark for me in 2001. The 2006 World Match Play Championship was a momentous win for me too – the list of past winners and the fact I had grown up watching the tournament at Wentworth made that a very special win. This year it is really hard to pick my favourite moment. I was thrilled to win the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship again – I hadn’t won a tournament since I won there in 2007 so it felt great to start the year with a win. I went on from there to win the Shell Houston Open. This was my first professional win on the US PGA Tour so that was a pretty significant win, and then winning the European Tour’s flagship tournament, the BMW Championship at Wentworth, in front of my family and friends was amazing too!
What do you feel are the strongest and weakest parts of your game? I always try to turn my weaknesses into my strengths. I have always been a very good driver and long iron player and perhaps my short game has been a little weak. However, part of the reason I’ve won three times this year has been because I’ve become sharper with the short game and more consistent with my overall game. Stats can lie a little but I look at them and use them as a guide as to what I should work on.
Talk me through you first US PGA Tour win this year and how it felt… Obviously it was great to win the Shell Houston Open. I came frustratingly close at the WGC-Accenture but felt that it was right round the corner so was thrilled to get my first PGA Tour win under my belt. I was thrilled to come through the drama of a play-off to claim my first win.
What do you feel has led to your success this year? Getting married in December last year!
What is the secret to successfully juggling playing schedules on the US and European Tours? It does take planning to make sure you don’t exhaust yourself with too many long-haul flights but with my coach, Peter Kostis, and my management team at IMG we pretty much work out my schedule 12 months in advance. It is a lot of travel but don’t worry, I think I am pretty lucky – I get to play golf all over the world and get paid for it. It is pretty amazing really. I love to visit new places and actually my 11 tournament wins have taken place on five continents. I’ve won in USA, Europe, Middle East, China and Australia, so I guess that means I am pretty comfortable travelling.
What is the aspect of your game that you work on the most? It depends on any given day but, though I work on all aspects, I probably spend a little more time on my short game.
Is there a particular golfer from a past era you would like to have played with, and why? Although I would love to have played with Nicklaus, Player and Palmer in their prime, I think we are pretty fortunate to be in the era we are in. Tiger Woods has lifted the profile of golf to a whole new level of interest amongst sports fans, which has obviously benefited all of us, and as a professional golfer you want to compete and win against the world’s best players.
As for the Volvo World Match Play, have you played the Finca Cortesín course, and if not what are your expectations? I haven’t played the course but I have heard a lot about it. I have heard that it is going to be a fantastic stage for match play golf and has some breathtaking holes.
What are you looking forward to at the Volvo World Match Play and what preparations are you making? I am trying to make sure I am as fit and ready as possible for the Match Play and that my injury is fully recovered. I love match play – we play so many stroke play tournaments throughout the year that I really look forward to the freedom that match play brings. It helps that I have enjoyed some success. Winning the World Match Play in 2006 was an amazing moment for me but earlier this year I finished second in the WGC-Accenture Match Play so it gave me confidence ahead of the 2009 World Match Play. I am also looking forward to the new champions’ league format – it has always been a knock-out so the round robin groups will make an interesting change. The hotel looks amazing in the brochure and everyone I speak to says it is incredibly luxurious; I can’t wait to check in.
What are your goals? I like to keep my goals private but you can be sure majors feature there somewhere.
Nutrition… do you have a particular diet you follow? I am very conscious of eating healthily and making sure I have the right fuel on board to perform my best. Hydration is a very important part of this too.
Where else in Andalucía do you like playing? I am really looking forward to trying out Finca Cortesín – I have heard some amazing reviews. I don’t have any one particular favourite though I have enjoyed playing at several courses in the region, including the famous Valderrama. ¦ Your favourite playing partner? I can’t pick one out – anyone on the European Ryder Cup team!
What is it you like most about Spain? I like the people, everyone is always so friendly, and the amazing restaurants – one of my dreams is to eat at El Bulli in Cataluña. And of course the weather.
What is your schedule for the rest of the year after the World Match Play? Will you be taking a break over Christmas-New Year? I will play in the WGC-HSBC Champions and the Dubai World Championship for sure. I will take a bit of a break over Christmas but I will also put in a lot of hard work on the range and in the gym so I am ready to start the year in top form – hopefully by defending the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship.
Interview reproduced courtesy of Society Living Magazine. – View online issue.