SAN DIEGO A record 12 Englishmen are teeing it up at Torrey Pines this week, and all of them will be trying to end a losing streak at the U.S. Open for England, and the whole of Europe, that goes back to Tony Jacklin in 1970.
Scottsdale resident Paul Casey used to think his game wasn't suited to the precision test of a U.S. Open course. But all that changed at Oakmont last year when he shot a second-round 66 ("the best round of my life") and finished tied for 10th on Sunday. Now he can't wait for the tournament to begin. "I probably started to think about Torrey Pines a few days after the Masters," he said.
Casey gained even more confidence at Augusta this year, despite fading with a fourth-round 79 to finish tied for 11th. "I gave myself a chance at the Masters but it got away from me for a few holes," he said.
Casey said he has the shot-making ability to challenge at the majors, but he admitted that he has lacked the self confidence to actually go out and win one. It is an area he has been working on with his coach, Peter Kostis, and the sports psychologist Don Green.
Casey's recent performances in the majors have made him excited about the week ahead. "In the past, the majors scared me a little bit with the scale of everything and the way the courses were set up," he said. "Now I look forward to getting out there. I actually don't like to spend too much time on the range. It used to be the other way around. I used to hide on the range and fear going out on the course because of the test you were going to face. Now I relish the challenge. It's not easy, but now I understand that everybody finds it difficult."
The realization has suddenly hit Casey that he has as much talent as anyone else out there. "For a long time, I felt that you had to put in a certain amount of time before you were allowed to become a major champion. But a lot of guys are coming through these days like Ben Curtis and Shaun Micheel. It doesn't matter now. It's not like you've got to put in your 15 years on tour and then you are allowed to be a major champion. There's no rule."