CROMWELL, June 18 – England’s Paul Casey has come close to winning here at the Travelers Championship. Very close.
In 2015, he erased a three-stroke lead with five holes remaining to force a playoff with Bubba Watson but lost on the second hole but lost on the second hole when Watson sank an eight-foot putt. In 2017, Casey was fifth in the tournament.
A year ago, he shot a PGA Tour-personal best 62 in the third round to take a four stroke lead after three rounds. But Casey struggled in the final round with a 72 while Watson erased a six-stroke deficit to win the tournament for the third time. Once again, Casey finished second.
Casey hopes to come away with his first win here at the Travelers this weekend.
But he will have to beat Watson and a strong field of golfers. Five of the top 10 golfers in the world are here including No. 1 Brooks Koepka, who fell one stroke shy at Sunday’s U.S. Open championships at Pebble Beach, and No. 6 Francesco Molinari, No. 7 Justin Thomas, No. 9 Patrick Cantlay and No. 10 Bryson DeChambeau.
Two-time winner Phil Mickelson returns for the first time since 2002 while Jordan Spieth, remembered for his magical chip from the 18th bunker to win in 2017 in a playoff, is also back.
“We’ve got a great golf course. It tests the player and kind of every club in the bag,” Casey said Tuesday. “But really this is — you know, the other factors are maybe you wouldn’t hear from a player is we’ve got great crowds and great energy around this championship.”
“I love this place, but I play it well. I’ve come very, very close. I would love to get a victory here,” Casey said.
He doesn’t mind playing with Watson, who has handed him two tough losses here.
“I love playing with Bubba. He’s one of the most enjoyable golfers, even for me, to watch. He’s great for our game,” Casey said. “Yeah, frustrating he’s got the better of me a couple times. On both occasions I made errors and didn’t play the golf I wanted to. I would love to play better golf and give him more of a match.”
Those tough defeats have been part of Casey’s growth in the game. He has 14 wins on the European Tour and three on the PGA Tour, including two in the last two years. He is the back-to-back winner of the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.
“I never think of those losses,” Casey of the Travelers. “You never think of the other player. In our sport it’s always about I should have done something different. Great thing is we come back every year and I’ve always got a chance to try and get one up on him.
“You learn in the defeat, learn in the mistakes,” Casey said. “If you don’t, you don’t survive. So as much as it’s painful to lose, it’s when you learn and when you grow.
Casey, 41, has three top three finishes this season. He was second at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am behind Mickelson in February and was tied for third at the World Golf Championships in Mexico with two final rounds of 65.
He admits that he learned a lesson here in Cromwell last June. “I did not have a good warmup,” Casey said. “I felt like I just got out of rhythm on the warmup. I’ll give a lot of credit to my coach Peter Kostis and my caddie John McLaren. It was something we discussed.
“Nobody ever likes hearing kind of their faults, but we sat down and reviewed it and we discussed how poor the warmup was and how I went to the first tee just a little out of whack.
“(Since then) I’ve worked incredibly hard on a warmup and controlling that. Now there is a timing to it, a number of golf balls that I hit. And that showed itself early this year at Pebble Beach with all the stopping and starting and I stayed consistent and ended up with a decent result,” Casey said.
“I know I didn’t win, but I didn’t have the golf game certainly to beat Phil (Mickelson) that week. Then stuck with that, and it’s become really a key part of what I do now. Without doubt, it very much assisted in Tampa (Valspar) and the victory there. I’ve got that new warmup now, so maybe that’s the key.”
First round plays begins on Thursday morning in Cromwell.