US Masters 2020: Paul Casey talks to the media
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s our pleasure to welcome Paul Casey to the interview room today. Paul, welcome to the press building. Paul, you equalled your low round of the fourth round of 2018 here with a 65, and you started 10, you started on No. 10, and with a birdie, and then you followed it with birdies on 13, 15, 16, 6, and you also had the eagle on 2. Tell us a little bit about what it was like to start the 2020 Masters on No. 10 and build the momentum from there.
PAUL CASEY: Let me look at my scorecard. I don’t see my birdie on 10, but I did birdie 10.
First, starting on 10 was strange because it’s not the easiest tee shot. I much prefer starting on 1. I find 10 a tricky tee shot, but I actually feel fortunate because I feel like if I teed off on time at 7:44, those conditions were pretty tough.
I was not relishing the challenge ahead waking up in the rain this morning, so I felt like, to be honest, that was a very good break that I capitalized on because it was a glorious day for golf, really, after that. The guys that had to play a couple of holes this morning, I think they got a little bit of a rough draw but only for two holes.
It was a great round. I got through Amen Corner unscathed, and picked one up on 13. And yeah, it was just very, very solid golf. And for me the difficult kind of key holes out there, holes like 1 and 5, 7, you have to hit a good tee shot.
I did the right things when I needed to, and to be honest, you rarely walk off this golf course going, it could have been two or three better, but it kind of felt that way. I don’t want to be greedy. I’m very, very happy with my 65.
Q. Obvious stuff here, Paul, in your 14th appearance, what was the biggest difference? What was noticeable to you as you were going about, not just the birdies, but everything?
PAUL CASEY: You’re talking about this 2020 version of the Masters?
Q. Pretty much.
PAUL CASEY: You know, this is something I’ve looked forward to. I with as vocal earlier in the year at Harding Park about not enjoying golf in a pandemic. I’m acutely aware of I’m in a very fortuitous position. I still get to be a professional golfer and play championship golf, but I didn’t know how the fanless experience would be. And so far, I’ve not enjoyed it, and I’ve lacked I felt like the lack of energy for me. I’ve had nothing or very little to draw from being out playing tournament golf.
The Masters, though, this week it still has a buzz to it. There’s an energy and a little bit of a vibe. Yes, it’s clearly a lot less than what we are used to, but there’s something about this place that is still I felt excited to be here.
As soon as I stepped foot on property on Monday, I’ve never been to happy to pass a COVID 19 test in my life. Was genuinely nervous about that. I don’t know why I was nervous because my protocols haven’t changed. The kids were denied from going out on play dates last week. Can’t go on play dates. Dad’s got to go to the Masters next week.
You know, the beauty of the place is probably even more so this week. I’ve been fortunate to play this golf course outside of tournament week, and it’s quite a special experience this week.
Q. Where do you think the buzz comes from?
PAUL CASEY: I guess the history. I mean, the golf course itself is part of it. The history of this championship, this tournament. So many people like myself are just excited to play this. You know, this is a treat. It always has been and always will be a real treat. There’s many great golfers who are not here this week because they are not high enough in the rankings or how they didn’t qualify, and they are envious of every single player in the field.
So for me, it’s not lost on me.
Q. When you see, you look at the leaderboard, you probably haven’t had a whole lot of time to look and see how everybody else is playing, you see familiar names up here at this tournament that are kind of up there toward the top year after year after year. Is there absolutely no surprise to see Westy’s name up there or Woods’s name up there?
PAUL CASEY: Zero surprise to see Westy. He’s so good. He continues to be world class. He knows this place better than I do. Very few guys know it better than I do, but he’s one of them.
No, it’s no surprise. I love the fact Paul Tesori was talking he was talking Webb he wasn’t talking Webb down, but he’s just like, “There’s no way for my man Webb to compete.” I think Webb might have played a practice round with Dustin and some other guys, and he’s just seen obviously Webb’s approach or style of golf is very different to a lot of the guys talked about this week, and there he is, 5 under.
So what does Paul Tesori know about Webb Simpson.
No surprise. Matsuyama, Oosty, this golf course, look, some would say it’s the same old kind of names up there, but this golf course, to me, exposes what a guy has got. I’m not saying it’s the ultimate test. There are different types of tests of golf around the world, but this particular test you have to do certain things very, very well, and predominately the best players in the world always rise to the top this week.
Q. Is there anything special that you have worked with your coach on that has allowed you to play so well in the majors this year?
PAUL CASEY: No. No. I actually had not seen Peter Kostis for quite a while in the summer. He was up in Maine, and I was in Arizona, and we didn’t cross paths. We tried to do a lot of work remotely, which wasn’t massively productive. And I actually wasn’t swinging it very well through the vast majority of this season. Since getting back, and all the way through to the last few weeks, poor performances in Vegas and California, and it was like a crash course the last two weeks.
The last two weeks, I spent a lot of time actually on tempo. Tempo, big turn, tried to hit the ball maybe a little bit harder than normal, and that was really it. So the tempo was the big thing, that worked all the way through the game, because the tempo wasn’t the same with the driving and with the putting, and normally for me it is.
For me, the putting and the chipping, I was a little slow. Maybe a little quick on some of the irons. So it was all just trying to get things matched up, and it seems to have kind of paid dividends the last two weeks.
Q. Following up on that, it was mentioned in the broadcast that you are working with Peter on trying to chase some distance. How is that going, and what was the impetus to do so?
PAUL CASEY: It was more so, rather than anything we’ve been seeing recently with certain players, it was more I hadn’t seen Peter through the summer, and he came back and goes, “You’re not hitting it as hard as you normally do.” He goes, “You’re hitting it poorly because you’re trying not to make mistakes, you’re trying not to make errors. I need you to make a bigger turn and smash it like you normally do.”
I was like, “Are we chasing distance here?”
He goes, “No, I just want you to hit it like you normally do. You have plenty of length, speed in there.” He goes, “Well, why don’t you actually you know, why don’t you push it a little bit, kind of hit some a little harder, and hopefully you’ll fall back into your regular kind of tempo and regular speed.”
So it was less about chasing distance. I’m not look, I’m not I’m 43. I stuck a couple on Instagram last week, a couple of 184 ball speeds. I think I got one up to 190, which is pretty good for me. I tend not to talk about it. I don’t think I can no, I’m not going to talk about chasing distance. I just need to hit guys who play with me know that there’s plenty of length there.
Q. What was the difference between this year and last year, other than 16 strokes?
PAUL CASEY: The first round?
PAUL CASEY: I have no idea. I don’t know. Just rubbish. But I played some decent golf in 2019 overall. Just not the first round of the Masters. I don’t know why it was rubbish.
Q. Speak to us, to the media (indiscernible) dinner, so maybe it was that.
PAUL CASEY: Maybe it was that. Yeah, that’s right. Nothing was different. It wasn’t any extra glass of red wine or anything like that. In fact, I’ve not had a glass of red wine this week. Maybe that was it. I don’t know.
I’m not blaming anybody. I take full responsibility. It was rubbish. As many rounds of golf as I’ve 14 appearances, Doug said. It’s just one of those things.
Q. Would you tell us about the conditions out there today, and how much do you feel the softness of the greens contributed to the low scoring?
PAUL CASEY: It did. It’s not just the softness of the greens, it’s the little bit of some guys have mentioned it, there’s a little bit of bermuda still in there. So the bermuda has a twofold effect. One, the greens are very receptive coming in, and there was a shot I hit on No. 2, a 6 iron to that left hand pin that you can’t hit that shot in April. It was just left of the flag. It pitched and stopped instantly, and that shot in April would have one hopped over into the Patrons, and probably would have walked off with a 5 instead of a 3.
So it’s that receptiveness and you can be aggressive with the approach shots, and obviously the putts are not as quick as well. So there are certain I hit a couple of shots today, one on 14, I didn’t capitalize on the good shot in, but again that would have released down and finished in the middle of the green instead of staying next to the left hand pin.
Yeah, receptiveness and speed, but it’s not just the rain. It’s the bermuda, but that also changes I haven’t quite figured it out yet; do we have to read a bit more grain than normal? It’s just different. Just a different challenge. It’s still very much the Masters and Augusta National, but just a little different.
So the guys that know, the guys that don’t know, this is going to be great. The guys whose first Masters, Jason Kokrak and everyone else, and they will be back, hopefully back in April, they are going to have a rude awakening for how this golf course is still very, very difficult, but April is just a different difficult and it could be quite funny.
Q. Did it feel longer out there today?
PAUL CASEY: Certain holes, I think I got lucky with the wind. Certain holes like 8, they kicked up straight into us and made 8 play very long. Some other holes, like 2, it was downwind. 2 played short. 10 was short. 11 was short, which was nice, because if it turns around on 11 it’s a beast. It wasn’t too bad. I think that was just luck of the draw with the wind.
Q. Have you ever played a round here where you had balls that plugged in greens, and then it seemed as the day wore on, they stopped plugging and started spinning back. Is it going to be harder from now on in the afternoon than it was maybe when you all went through that stretch?
PAUL CASEY: I’m not sure. To answer your first part, I’m not sure I’ve played a round where I’ve seen balls make such an impression. Yeah, I don’t think I have. And that’s amazing amount of again, grass types and all the rest of it, it just feels very humid out here. It’s the humidity, ignoring the rain we’ve had fall, there’s just a humidity to this time of year I’ve never experienced because I’ve never been here at this time of year, sticky like it is at East Lake in September or something like that.
Yeah, it’s a good point you raised. I saw Tony Finau in our group on the first land the ball 10, 12 feet short of the flag on the first, which is a pretty decent way, I don’t know what the pin is today on the first, it’s 15 or 18 on on the left, and he spun it back into the bunker on a good looking wedge shot. It poses a very different challenge from what we are used to.
Yes, maybe that change in condition is going to be difficult for the guys this afternoon. For me the biggest thing is the greens are just going to have they are just going to grow a little bit so the speed is not going to be there. They are perfect, when they are mowed in the morning, they are absolutely perfect. They are just going to get a little more chewed up in the afternoons.
Q. Would you walk us through your thinking in how you played 13 and 15.
PAUL CASEY: 13 for me, I played sort of straight down the hole, so to speak. There’s a couple of tree trunks that I aim and I try to not run out on the fairway, which I did today. So for me it’s a 3 wood. I don’t know the yardage.
I hit a very good tee shot today, and it unfortunately was just a yard through the fairway into the first cut and leave myself if I hit a good tee shot, it will be 200 and change to the front, typically, which is exactly what I had today. Left myself a 5 iron today out of that first cut and hit a glorious shot to 15 feet and 2 putted.
But that’s the way I will play it all week, unless the wind changes, in which case the club will change, but the style, the way of playing the hole remains the same.
Sorry, what was the second part of the question? 13?
Q. 13 and 15.
PAUL CASEY: 15 to me is bombs away. I smash it. I have a small little tree picked out in the distance which is probably all the way up on the 5th somewhere, but that’s where I’m looking because I can see the grouping of trees on the left, so I know where to position it and just don’t go too far left.
I hit a perfect drive today. Left myself 210 or something like that, 205, 210. Maybe a bit more. I hit a 6 iron to seven feet and missed it comfortably. That’s the way, again, I’ll play it all week.
For me, it’s funny, 13 is conservative off the tee and aggressive with a second shot, and 15 is aggressive off the tee and then kind of conservative with the second shot, so they are kind of flipped. If I mess up the tee shot on 15, I still have an opportunity for birdie to knock it down and wedge it in and I’ll always knock it down there and wedge it in. And I’ll always knock it down the left side if I have to lay it up so I have got more pitch of the green to hold the ball.
But that’s the way, yeah, conservative off the tee on 13, and aggressive off the tee on 15.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much. We appreciate your time and best of luck the rest of the tournament.