Golfer Paul Casey ready for action.

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Golfer Paul Casey ready for action.

Paul Casey is proud of how he has fought back from plummeting down the rankings to be a challenger once more. The Englishman is back in contention and following the example of carefree youngsters as he prepares for the U.S Open.

Who wants to smile their way to second place? Paul Casey, as it transpires. “Why has it taken me 20 years to figure that out?” asks the Englishman, when he recalls his visibly upbeat demeanour during the closing round of last month’s US PGA Championship.

Casey shot four under par on that Sunday at Harding Park but could not keep pace with American Collin Morikawa, who only graduated from college in 2019. “I’m very rarely envious of other players,” Casey says.

“You can’t go down that road, but when I see guys who have figured out how to play their best golf, someone who is nonchalant and carefree at 21, 22, 23 … When I came on Tour I was trying so damn hard. Now I cruise around.

“How much I want it hasn’t changed but I was totally chilled out at Harding Park.

Collin played great but I didn’t do anything wrong. I was at ease there, I wasn’t putting pressure on myself. I was accepting of the result.

If I keep doing that, hopefully we are having a different conversation in 12 months”. Casey will take confidence from San Francisco into this week’s U.S Open at Winged Foot. Speaking of his partner in the fourth round of the U.S PGA, Brooks Koepka, Casey said “Playing with him was absolutely great because he doesn’t care,” Casey says.

“He just wanders round and his attitude does not change. He had a bad day but he could have been shooting 65 or 85, it didn’t matter. He praises your shots, he gets out of your way when he needs to. That was really helpful.

I want to be like Brooks, trying not to care. He is a gentleman on the course”. Unfortunately Koepka, two-times U.S open champion, have withdrawn because of an injury. Having been world No 3 in 2009, Casey slipped outside the top 130 thanks to a chronic loss of form.

Injury and a divorce took their toll. However, the 43-year-old rebounded to multiple victories on both sides of the Atlantic and the Ryder Cup from 2013 onwards. “People who have never really struggled with their game don’t understand,” he says.

“I saw something about Dustin Johnson and ‘struggles’ the other day. Struggles. The guy has won 23 times on tour. Struggles is when I stood on the course and had zero confidence, I was embarrassed, I didn’t want to be there.

I totally lost my game. It’s done publicly as well, standing there on a course – Wentworth, wherever – and it’s horrible. Fighting to get my game back was nothing more than hard work and belief. If the major doesn’t come, there is plenty that I’m proud of”.