SHANGHAI — Back among the top players in golf, Paul Casey is rejoining the European Tour so he can get back to the Ryder Cup.
Casey said he will become a European Tour member again after a three-year absence, making the 40-year-old from England eligible to qualify or be picked for next year’s Ryder Cup in France. He last played for Europe in the 2008 matches at Valhalla.
"I have missed it too much," Casey said at the HSBC Champions. "I have missed my contribution to British golf, my contribution to Europe. My Ryder Cup experiences have been the highlight of my career. I want to be — and need to be — part of the European Tour, and then obviously that puts me in line to hopefully, possibly, play another Ryder Cup, which I would dearly love to do."
Casey went through a deep slump brought on mainly by injuries and partly by a divorce. He fell as low as No. 169 in the world four years ago until a resurgence on and off the golf course. He has won twice in Europe and done everything but win on the PGA Tour, rising to No. 15 in the world. He remarried and has two small children, the second child born a few months ago.
Casey has said he was not bitter about being left off the 2010 Ryder Cup team when he was No. 9 in the world, rather that his priority was to his family in Arizona, and playing two tours meant too much time on the road. Being entrenched in the top 50 and changes to the minimum events required for European Tour membership make it easier. What persuaded Casey was a long conversation with his wife, Pollyanna, who didn’t want him to look back in five years and wish he had rejoined the European Tour.
"The only thing that still resonates is she said, ‘If you don’t do this, I don’t want you to regret not doing this,’ which is the thing that stayed with me," Casey said.
He will not officially rejoin until the last week in November and plans to play his first European Tour event in Abu Dhabi next January.
"I want to play another Ryder Cup, and that’s why I need to do this," Casey said. "It was really important to me. But it’s not just the Ryder Cup. I missed playing on the European Tour and being part of English golf. It’s home. I know that I’m in Arizona and I’ll continue to live there. But I missed a piece of me the last three years."
Casey has played in three Ryder Cups, making a big putt in a pivotal match at Oakland Hills in 2004 while playing with David Howell, and ending a match at The K Club two years later with a hole-in-one.
Along with talking with his wife, Casey said he has been in touch with European captain Thomas Bjorn.
"Thomas has been a massive support," Casey said. "He’s assisted in me making the decision with his confidence and his backing of me and my game. But also hasn’t sort of crowded me, hasn’t pressured me in any way. He’s just been there as an ear, which has been wonderful."
Casey was jolted when he was left off the 2010 team, especially the way it came down. Colin Montgomerie made his two captain’s picks while four strong candidates to be selected — Casey, Padraig Harrington, Justin Rose and Luke Donald — were playing the final round of a FedEx Cup event in New Jersey.
Casey was playing with Harrington when the Irishman’s wife gave Harrington a thumbs-up when she heard about the pick. Casey realized he had been left off the team and played the rest of the round knowing that.
For years, the belief was that it led him to abandon his European Tour membership in 2014. Casey long said it was a decision based on family, especially the birth of his first son, and about getting his game in order.
"It was people’s perception, but it was incorrect," Casey said. "Yeah, I was disappointed. Anyone who was there saw how upset I was. But no, it had no bearing on the decision in 2014. Just look at my results. They were rubbish."
Casey figures he has a five-year window of playing his best golf. His last victory was the KLM Open in 2014, though he has played some of his best golf against some of the strongest fields, losing out to Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas in recent FedEx Cup playoff events.
That also contributed to the urgency of rejoining now.
"I still feel I’ve got another very good three, four, five years in me of really good stuff," he said. "That’s why the clock is ticking."