Paul Casey builds snowman, then catches fire to stay in U.S. Open contention

Paul Casey U.S. Open Getty Images

Paul Casey builds snowman, then catches fire to stay in U.S. Open contention

PGA Tour

Paul Casey builds snowman, then catches fire to stay in U.S. Open contention

ERIN, Wis. – As Paul Casey walked to scoring after reaching the top of the 117th U.S. Open leaderboard on Friday at Erin Hills, he received a text message from his instructor, Peter Kostis.

“He told me he was more proud of today’s round than he was of yesterday’s round,” Casey said.

Even though the 39-year-old Englishman’s 1-under 71 was five shots worse than his first-round 66, the student showed the teacher something much more important: Casey was resilient.

He made an 8 on the par-5 14th hole and was 4 over after six holes, but a string of five straight birdies, starting at No. 17, saved his round, and at 7 under Casey shared the lead as first-round leader Rickie Fowler was just beginning his second round.

“Not every day you enjoy a round of golf with an 8 on the card,” Casey said, “but I’m a pretty happy man.”

Casey is a big fan of watching early-morning telecasts of major championships, but chances are he might have changed the channel watching himself on the 14th on Friday morning.

How Casey built the snowman: He found the fairway off the tee, but then laid up into some ankle high rough. From there, he caught a flier from 106 yards out, finding the back fescue. He nearly whiffed on his fourth shot, the ball not even traveling 2 feet, and missed the green again with his fifth. After a chip to 8 feet and a missed double-bogey putt, Casey’s snowman was complete.

As Casey and his caddie, Johnny McLaren, walked off the green, Casey turned to a quiet McLaren and asked, “Are you all right?” McLaren responded: “Oh, fine, I’m good. Are you all right?”

Paul Casey made a mess of the par-5 14th hole Friday at Erin Hills, but then he recovered nicely. (Getty Images)

Casey bogeyed the next hole, but he still wasn’t hitting the panic button. Two holes later, he made the first of five straight birdies.

“There’s been times when I’ve handled blemishes very, very well, and other times where I haven’t,” Casey said. “I don’t think I would ever have handled it quite as calmly as I did today.”

Casey was so calm that his playing competitor, Justin Thomas, didn’t even notice the roller coaster Casey was on.

“I just remember on 17 he was at 2 under and I made a putt (to get to 2 under),” Thomas recalled. “He made birdie and I remember that if he missed that we were tied, and he started (seven shots) ahead of me. And then all of a sudden we got to 4 and he’s back at 7 (under), and I didn’t even realize it. I looked up at the leaderboard and I’m like, ‘How? What happened there? Why am I not at 7?’

“Now that I think about it, that’s kind of a bummer for me that I could’ve been there and not him.”

Instead, it’s Casey who finds himself in great position after 36 holes. In 13 previous U.S. Open starts, he has just one top 10, a T-10 in 2007, and has failed to make the weekend six times, including last year at Oakmont. He led the 2010 U.S. Open after 18 holes, only to finish T-40.

He has different plans this year, thanks in large part to his ability to get hot and melt away the effects of that snowman on Friday.

“Ultimately, the great thing about it is it keeps me in this championship,” Casey said, “because it could’ve gone very sideways after that and it didn’t.”

Latest

More Golfweek
Home