Abu Dhabi: Paul Casey may have his eyes set on a third win in the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship to equal Martin Kaymer's record, but the Englishman feels the presence of Tiger Woods along with the top four in the world is set to make the January event an exciting affair.
Speaking to a select group of journalists in a conference call, Casey, winner of the Abu Dhabi European Tour event in 2007 and 2009 said he was keen to put a frustrating 2011 behind him and try to hopefully come to Abu Dhabi after teeing off his new season in South Africa.
"It will be a five-week break before I go off to play in South Africa. I have done a lot of travelling this year and it has been hard on the body.
"A week in London and then another week in the US where I plan to do some snowboarding. And just trying to avoid a golf course. I want to be mentally as fresh as I can in the first few weeks," he said adding that a third win in Abu Dhabi was a target.
With Woods set to make his debut at the January 20-23 HSBC Golf Championship, Casey said: "Even with the struggles that he's had he's still the guy that moves the needle, he's still the guy that people get excited about. He's not at the top of the world rankings right now but when he's in a golf tournament, there's excitement, there's a buzz to it.
"And we're going to have the top four or the top five in the world, but adding Tiger into the mix, it's going to focus all eyes on the Middle East. It emphasises what a great tournament Abu Dhabi is. It's gone from strength to strength and it seems like every year it just gets better and better," Casey said.
Casey said he saw glimpses of the man who has won 14 majors and the way Woods finished on the final holes to win the Chevron event in California looked ominous.
"I got to watch a little bit, I talked to him briefly at Chevron in California. Talking to him it seems like the same old Tiger, the jokes are there, the banter in the locker room is still the same. I didn't really get a chance to witness or watch too much of his golf game on the golf course except from the final few holes when he came down the stretch," Casey said.
"It's difficult to comment on what happened leading up to his final couple of holes, except those final couple of holes it was like the old Tiger, the intensity was there, the way he finished it off making the putt on 17 and 18, for the birdie-birdie finish to win by one was really a glimpse of what we've witnessed since he came out on Tour, just before 2000 when he played some of the most unbelievable golf that any of us had ever seen," Casey said.
"So, I think that sort of [form] could be fairly ominous, there's no reason why he can't get his game back to where he was when he was playing his best. He's clearly got things he wants to work on; he's clearly not firing on all cylinders because the Tiger of old would have had a sniff of that lead at Chevron, taken and just run with it, and probably never looked back. So, he's clearly not where he wants to be but his final two holes and the way he finished it off was very impressive."
"Who knows what the future holds, but it could be very exciting for Abu Dhabi if he produces that kind of golf going up against myself, Rory [McIlroy] and Luke [Donald], and Kaymer and [Lee] Westwood and the guys that are dominating the world right now. I think that could prove to be very, very exciting stuff," Casey predicted.