Abu Dhabi: World No 14 Paul Casey, after three years of self-imposed sabbatical, is back on the European Tour with the Ryder Cup on his mind.
The Englishman wouldn’t have had any doubt in choosing Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship as his main comeback tournament having won here in 2007 and 2009.
“It’s like being back at school and I kind of haven’t seen everybody for two or three years,” he said. “Not many people on the range are more excited than I’m to be here this week.”
Casey added that he has been pondering about making a comeback into the European Tour since last July.
“You know, figuring out the details and when to announce it and when to actually join was also kind of, took some time to figure it out,” said Casey, who figured in the winning team at the EurAsia Cup in Malaysia under captain Thomas Bjorn. “For quite a while I’ve been very excited to get back out here.
“Last week was brilliant. Great fun to be part of a team, playing for captain Bjorn, kind of a whole generation now. I seem to have played for a couple of different generations, and that was exciting.”
Casey had decided to focus on PGA Tour solely so that he can manage his family commitments better.
“You know, the opportunity to play for Europe is now on the table at Ryder Cup and just something I just wanted to do, knowing that the clock is ticking, age 40, I don’t have that many opportunities,” he said.
Justin Rose, who ended 2017 with 10 consecutive top 10s including three victories (HSBC Championship, Turkish Airlines Open and Indonesian Masters), along with a runner-up finish in the BMW Championship during the FedEx Cup play-offs, is also keen to start on a high in Abu Dhabi.
“For me it’s a great place to start things off, get the momentum going again,” he said. “We all know what’s ahead, lots of big tournaments, and then the Major season, FedExCup and then also for me it is a little bit different this year with hosting the British Masters. There are lots of things to look forward to this year.”
American Matt Kuchar, making his Middle East debut, was excited about exploring the place along with playing some good golf.
“This is my first week to the Middle East,” he said. It’s a place I’ve always seen on TV, always kind of admired and wanted to see for myself. My wife and I love travelling, love seeing new places, and this is one that certainly was on my list.
“The clubhouse is spectacular, I’ve never seen one quite like it before. The course is a challenging driving golf course, trying to figure out the lines. There’s so many different doglegs and carries and different bunkers to try to challenge or not challenge that. I still feel like I may be learning exactly what lines to take and how much to try to bite off on some of the dogleg holes.”