Two men whose games over-prom­ise and then un­der-de­liver. Where does it go wrong in ma­jors?

Golf World (UK) - - Us Open Review -


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.

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