Paul Casey still smiling after rocky finish

Paul Casey playing his second shot on the 17th hole at St. Andrews Friday.
Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — In the back of Paul Casey’s mind as he walked off the driving range on Tuesday evening, he must have been thinking, “Here we go again.” He was losing his voice thanks to a cold.

Last year, playing the best golf of his career and ranked No. 3 in the world, Casey injured a muscle in his ribs at Turnberry. It wrecked his hopes of winning the Open Championship, and the injury forced him to subsequently withdraw in the middle of the first round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational two weeks later. Casey then withdrew from the PGA Championship as well.

Here in soggy, blustery St. Andrews, the last thing a golfer looking to hoist the Claret Jug needs is a sore throat and a case of the sniffles.

But after a 3-under 69 on Thursday, Casey shot another 69 on Friday that left him six shots behind tournament-leader Louis Oosthuizen.

However, his Friday score could have been much better had he not carded a triple-bogey seven on the 17th.

Casey sent his tee shot into the left rough, which he described as the deepest on the course. “It’s difficult to hug that right side with the wind,” he said. “Pretty intimidating.”

Attempting to hit the ball back into the fairway — without advancing it — Casey’s club passed under the ball, leaving it right where it was. After getting his third shot into the fairway, his approach to the green stopped short and left. Three putts later he’d made a seven.

After driving the ball left and past the green on the 18th (“A little bit of anger in there.”), Casey was able to make a two-putt birdie on the last hole to help salve his wounds.

“To be honest, I’m not even that frustrated with what happened on 17,” he said. “If you had told me that I’d be in the clubhouse at 6-under, I would have bitten your arm off, especially with the conditions we were warming up in this morning — the wind and the pouring rain. Yeah, I’m very happy with that.”

Casey said that his throat is improving and that playing later in the day Thursday may have been a blessing. “Christan [Donald], my caddie, doesn’t like the fact that my voice has come back,” he said.

If he can stay healthy and avoid playing in the windiest parts of the day, as he did Friday, Casey’s competition might not be as cheery.