DO CASEY AND FOWLER HAVE WHAT IT TAKES?
Two men whose games over-promise and then under-deliver. Where does it go wrong in majors?
‘IS CASEY PREPARED TO DO ALL IT TAKES TO GET ‘IT’? TIME IS NOT ON HIS SIDE...’
With the departure of Sergio Garcia from the conversation, the debate over who is currently the best player on the planet without a major victory to his name has become somewhat complicated. High on just about everyone’s list is Rickie Fowler, but Paul Casey also has his champions.
Both men arrived at Erin Hills with high hopes of success but left with the same old questions hanging over their chances of breaking their Grand Slam ducks. Is Fowler’s flashy game actually good enough for him to beat the very best players in the most testing conditions? And is Casey’s seemingly fragile psyche the main reason he has so far failed to break through at the very highest level?
Fowler first. While it may seem hard to question the quality of a man who spent the entire week inside the top five on the leaderboard – and who shot 10 under par on a course measuring nearly 8,000 yards – the 27-year-old Californian’s play was yet another example of what has become his norm in majors. After free-wheeling to an opening 65 and the firstround lead, Fowler slipped back. Despite starting the final day with only four players ahead of him, he produced only a level-par 72 marked by a succession of missed putts.
As has so often been the case in the past, Fowler rarely looked as if he was going to make the putts that really count. When the pressure is at its highest, the former Players champion lacks substance.
As for Casey, there is no doubt the 39-year-old Englishman has the physical talent to challenge just about anyone on a given week. And, like Fowler, he made a fast start at Erin Hills, in the shape of a six-under-par 66. Day two, however, highlighted both Casey’s problems and his undoubted quality. Round in 71, the three-time Ryder Cupper scarred his scorecard with a triple-bogey eight on the 14th hole, then made five birdies in succession. It was, in his own words, “a bit of a rollercoaster”.
And therein seems to be Casey’s problem. No one doubts his ability to make birdies. But on the evidence of Erin Hills and more than a few majors past, his temperament in time of stress remains a legitimate doubt. Joint second after day one. Tied for the lead at the halfway mark. But down in 26th place by the end – as many as 14 shots behind the new champion. That, sadly, is a typical Casey decline in majors. In conversation, Casey makes much of his happiness away from the course. Happily re-married and with a young child, that is to his credit. But, even if only subconsciously, has that contentment turned into a lack of motivation? He says he wants “it”. But is he prepared to do all that it takes to get it? Time is not on his side...
THE TAKEAWAY: Casey is good enough to win majors, but he must eliminate the lapses in concentration that lead to dropped shots from innocuous positions. Fowler needs to find a way of taking his uninhibited approach into the final day.
Fowler leads a lot of stat categories on tour – but is without a major.