2003: Casey closes curtain on B&H
Sutton Coldfield, England
The 33rd and final Benson and Hedges International Open went to Paul Casey, and he added his name to a prestigious list of winners.
Casey is the final entry on a champions roster that includes Tony Jacklin, Lee Trevino, Tom Weiskopf, Greg Norman, Sam Torrance, Sandy Lyle, Jose Maria Olazabal, Bernhard Langer, Seve Ballesteros and Colin Montgomerie. Under new British government rules banning tobacco advertising and sponorship, Benson and Hedges can no longer sponsor the tournament.
Casey proved himself a worthy champion May 11, shooting 71-69-66-71–277 to win by four strokes over Padraig Harrington, who shot a final-round 75 to finish 7 under. Paul Lawrie, Rolf Muntz and Stephen Scahill finished tied for third at 6 under.
Casey had four top 10s in 2002, but he didn’t consider finishing 46th on the Order of Merit much of a success.
“The biggest change I made from last year was playing a lot before I came out,” he said. “I spent the last three weeks of the six-week break just playing every day in good competition against other pros. I took a lot of money off Gary McCord.
“The difference was just being game ready. I wasn’t game ready last year. I had swing thoughts in my mind instead of shooting numbers and hitting golf shots. I just felt I was in a hole for the entire year.”
The Benson and Hedges victory took Casey to second place on the Order of Merit behind Ernie Els. He also is in good shape to qualify for the U.S. Open and the British Open.
Casey jumped off to a fast start on the European Tour, earning Rookie of the Year honors in 2001 after winning the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship. This came after he won three consecutive Pac-10 Championships at Arizona State.
Many felt Casey’s career would take off in 2002, but he failed to win an event. His victories in the ANZ Championship earlier this year,
however, and now in the Benson and Hedges have put him near the top of the European Tour’s money list.
Harrington was in contention during the front nine Sunday, but after missing a 2-foot par putt on No. 9, he shot 39 on the back.
“Things were going nicely and then I just got complacent on the ninth hole,” he said. “After that, the ball just seemed to fall out of the hole (rather) than fall in. Maybe the putts weren’t hit as authoritatively after that.”
Finishing second is becoming a habit with Harrington, who has been a runner-up 19 times in his professional career.