Casey wins Irish Open, surpassing Luiten

Paul Casey won the Irish Open behind a Sunday comeback, including a 45-foot eagle putt on No. 18.

Paul Casey won the Irish Open behind a Sunday comeback, including a 45-foot eagle putt on No. 18.

Paul Casey recorded his 12th European Tour win with a dramatic victory in the Irish Open. It might just be the most significant of his career.

“Psychologically this is huge,” Casey said. “It feels like a first win again. I have struggled with the confidence and this is a huge relief knowing I am moving in the right direction.

“I have great golf in me for 10 years plus. This is a massive confidence boost.”

The win ended a two-year barren spell since the 2011 Volvo Golf Champions in Bahrain. It might not have come around so quickly had it not been for Justin Rose winning the U.S. Open at Merion.

“That really lit the fire,” Casey said. “Justin's victory was phenomenal. I was so proud of what he did and how he handled himself.

“It's well documented how he struggled at the beginning of his career, and I have seen the work he has put in to become one of the best players in the world. I have been there before and I desperately want to be in control of my game and winning championships again.”

The Englishman returned a 5-under 67 in the final round to vault past third-round leader Joost Luiten. Casey punctuated his comeback with an eagle finish on the par-5 final hole, rolling in a 45-footer.

“I've always wanted a grandstand finish. I've never holed a putt like that to win a tournament before.”

The Englishman’s slip down the world rankings has been dramatic. Three years ago he was ranked World No. 3 -- he entered the Irish Open as World No. 169.

Injuries and personal problems haven’t helped the affable former Arizona State player. He divorced American-wife Jocelyn in 2011 after a three-year marriage. Then he suffered a shoulder injury in a snowboarding accident at the beginning of 2012.

Those travails put a stop to Casey’s hopes of winning his first major title. He finished third in the Open Championship at St Andrews in 2010, and claimed he was good enough to win a major championship. Then life and injury got in the way.

Casey’s slip down the world pecking order has been so severe that he’s had to return to Europe to try to rebuild. He has no status on the PGA Tour, and being so far out of the world top 50 he struggles to get into the majors and WGC events.

The 35-year-old has been on the comeback trail for much of this season. Signs that he was getting near his best came when he returned a 64 in U.S. Open Qualifying at Walton Heath to earn a spot at Merion. Casey finished joint 45th, but just making it to Merion was a small victory.

“Part of what we do with playing golf is the journey,” Casey said. “It's never going to be perfect, we know that. There will be up‑and‑downs. You don't want the up‑and‑downs to be too big, and some of the downs I've had recently haven't been great.

“But watching my mates out there competing, like Justin Rose winning the U.S. Open was fantastic. It motivates me and motivates me in the right way. I don't get upset by it.

"Actually, I want to emulate what those guys are doing, so it forces me to work a little bit harder, work a little bit smarter, and I know that deep down my best golf is still ahead of me.”

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