2006: The Master of surprise

Sutton Coldfield, England

Paul Casey’s comeback isn’t quite complete. Not by the evidence of his final-round performance in the $3.35 million Quinn Direct British Masters.

This trophy should have had Casey’s name on it. Instead, the name Johan Edfors went

on one of the most prestigious trophies in PGA European Tour golf.

Edfors shot 11-under-par (277 total) for the biggest title of his short European Tour career, and his second victory in six tournaments. Jarmo Sandelin, Stephen Gallacher and Gary Emerson tied for second at 10 under.

Edfors won the TCL Classic in China in March. However, his first place British Masters check of 437,949 euros dwarfed the 140,215 euros he pocketed in the Far East.

To say the Swede was a surprise winner is an understatement. The long hitter has fluctuated back and forth between the European Challenge Tour and main Tour over the last few years. He played a full but unsuccessful season on the developmental circuit last year and had to go to Qualifying School to get his card. Edfors had his first stint on the main tour in 2004 after topping the Challenge Tour rankings in 2003, winning two tournaments. Indeed, the 30-year-old native of Varberg, Sweden, has made seven trips to the school.

Edfors started the final round four shots behind overnight-leader Casey. However, bogeys at Nos. 1 and 18 were offset by four birdies over the other 16 holes to make him the first Swede in 60 years to win the prestigious event. Two of those birdies came from 25-foot putts on the par-5 15th and 17th holes.

“I knew if I took advantage of the par 5s coming in I would have a chance,” Edfors said. “I did that with two good putts.”

Edfors looks like he belongs on the ATP Tour and not the European Tour. His long dark locks give him the appearance of Roger Federer. He might not have the same status in European golf as Federer has in tennis world, but he has the strength to overpower most layouts.

He arrived on Tour confident that his ability to hit a golf ball long distances would take him to the top of the European ranks. It didn’t. Edfors soon discovered he needed to develop finesse.

“I really thought I had game but realized pretty soon that I didn’t,” Edfors said. “I didn’t have the short game needed to play the different types of shots around the greens.”

Edfors spent the early part of the season working on his putting, reverting to a grip whereby the hands are placed side by side on the putter, with the thumbs equal. It has paid dividends in the last six weeks.

Edfors wasn’t supposed to figure in what was billed as a Ryder Cup party. Nine players from the European side that won at Oakland Hills in 2004 were in the field, as were eight members of the European team that won the trophy at The De Vere Belfry four years ago.

Edfors is now very much in that mix. The victory moved him to 12th in both Ryder Cup standings (World Ranking list and points table).

Casey started the final day two shots in front of U.S. Open champion Michael Campbell. Most in attendance figured the final round would constitute a mere lap of honor for the confident Englishman, a chance to seal his second consecutive Ryder Cup appearance.

If the former Arizona State star had to choose one course on which to play all European Tour events, it would be The Belfry. He played his first European Tour tournament at the Sutton Coldfield layout, and won the Benson and Hedges International Open here in 2003.

However, the four-time Ryder Cup layout wasn’t kind to Casey this time, especially

Nos. 9-11. He three putted the ninth, doubled the short par-4 10th when his 5-wood tee shot found the water beside the green, and added a bogey at the 11th to drop from a two-shot lead into five-way tie along with Campbell, Edfors, Gallacher and Sandelin.

“Things didn’t go the right way,” said Casey, who also bogeyed the final hole. “The 5-wood at 10 wasn’t far off from being absolutely perfect. Then I had a bad break on 11 and some tough lies. There wasn’t much momentum to begin with. It was a battling day. I hung in there as good as I could and it wasn’t good enough.”

Casey was chasing his second title since winning the Volvo China Open last November. More important, he was hoping to cast the demons of the last 12 months aside. Ill-advised comments about American golf to a British newspaper in late 2004 started his slide, and he has been fighting his way back since. His tie for fifth moved him to eighth in both Ryder Cup standings, but Casey’s comeback remains a work in progress.






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