Casey's game plan pays off

Paul Casey is the boldest of golfers and he stayed with the game he knows best in the final round of the last Benson & Hedges International Open. Having started the day alongside Padraig Harrington, this former winner of two English Amateur Championships had a closing 71 over a wind-tossed Belfry to leave the Irishman with his 19th second place.

Casey, 25, had worked out his game plan on that Saturday night and was determined not to back down. "I knew what I was going to be taking off almost every tee,'' he said. "If I'd written the clubs down, I'd have got 15 of the 18 right.''

A touch of indecision crept in at the 311-yard 10th, when he had to wait an age for Harrington and Angel Cabrera to leave the green. He swapped clubs at one point but, after pacing the tee and checking the gusting wind again and again, he returned to the three-wood he originally had in mind and belted one just right of the green. "It isn't,'' he noted afterwards, "the sort of tee where you want to hang around. You want to get up there and bash it.''

He failed to bag his birdie but made a crucial save at the next when, after leaving another tee-shot out right, he holed an 11-yarder to salvage the par that kept him at 10 under. His eye in, he then made a 15-footer to go to 12 under at the short 12th to Harrington's nine under.

Casey, who won the 2001 Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship and this year's ANZ Championship in Sydney, has the right attitude for the game. When the subject of how he never played for the English amateur side came up on that Sunday evening, he rubbed his hands and said: "I like it when you don't get picked. It can bring out the best in you.''

Having slipped from the lead to a share of fifth place in Tenerife a few weeks ago, he found a way of lessening the pressure. Instead of thinking about the glory, which would attach to winning the final Benson & Hedges, he focused more on how such a result would go a long way towards qualifying him for the US Open and the Open. "I used that every time my concentration wandered,'' he said.

With the crowd clapping him on to every green, the Surrey golfer can never have felt more convinced that he made the right decision in opting to compete in Europe rather than the United States, where he played his first two events as a professional.

The only thing to disappoint the player was the fact that his father, Terry, had not been in the crowd with other family members. Casey Sr. had made a promise to coach the juniors at Burhill and had not wanted to let them down.

Harrington kept harping back to what happened on the ninth green, for everything had been going well until then. Pleased with himself at having knocked a well-nigh impossible 60-footer to two feet, he said he made the mistake of being complacent with the short putt. After missing that, he could not hole anything. "The ball was falling out of the hole rather than into it,'' said Harrington, before referring to Casey as "a class act.''

Seve Ballesteros, who in the heat of the moment crossed out the slow play penalty stroke which had been added to his scorecard in Italy.

Ken Schofield, the chief executive of the European Tour, was clearly feeling for the old champion in an interview with the BBC's Radio 5 Live. Against that, he rightly stated that the way in which the Spaniard had adjusted his card was a major issue. "The sadness of what happened here is that we have a great player who refused to take the referee's decision as final. Seve basically got his own red card.''

Ballesteros said: "If I get fined, I will pay my fine and move on.'' He was reluctant to say too much more, but he is clearly vexed by the fact that no one seems to be making much of an attempt to see his offence in context."Everyone knows,'' he said with an expressive shrug of the shoulders, "that in the normal course of events I wouldn't dream of altering my scorecard.''