Frustrated for much of this year by a lingering foot injury, Britain’s Paul Casey has set his sights on a healthy 2012 campaign, another victory on the U.S. PGA Tour and a long coveted return to the European Ryder Cup team.
Though the Englishman won two tournaments worldwide during 2011, his form and consistency were adversely affected after he was hampered by a sore right toe in May, a condition which was never accurately diagnosed until months later.
“It’s been incredibly frustrating,” Casey said. “The trouble with the toe injury was that I didn’t really know what was going on until it was too late.
“I picked it up in late May, battled through it and I didn’t really get a full diagnosis until August. By then, it was too late to take a medical (exemption) so I tried to play through it and got into a lot of bad habits.”
An 11-times winner on the European Tour whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2009 Houston Open, Casey played with a plate in his right shoe and his toes taped up over the last six months.
“It was a joint in my foot which wasn’t allowing my foot to move correctly and that put pressure on my toe,” the world number 20 said.
“What’s interesting is that if I swing the club the way I should swing it, correctly and the way I used to swing it, the toe is fine.
“But those bad habits led to erratic golf. My weight got back on the heels and the club started to go up rather than around, very simply it was too steep.”
Casey, who climbed to a career-high third in the world rankings in 2009, has worked hard in recent months to shift his weight back on to his toes, and on to the balls of the feet.
“That’s where it should be,” he said. “I need to do a better job of turning because I ended up hitting the ball with the hands and the arms this year a lot. I just need to put those things right.”
Asked to assess his 2011 campaign, Casey replied: “Well I’ve managed to win twice around the world, but not on the PGA Tour, and I’ve sort of clung on to a world ranking.
“I have dropped a bit but I am still ranked twenty-something and that’s with playing very average golf for me. Touch wood, I can stay healthy and 2012 can be a great season for me.”
An inveterate goal setter whose most recent victory came at the Korean tour’s Shinhan Donghae Open in October, Casey has established clear-cut targets for next year.
“My very lofty goals I haven’t yet achieved so they’re going to be the same in 2012, and those will be the majors and World Golf (Championships) events,” he said.
“But I have other goals … winning tournaments, winning a certain number of world ranking points, making the Ryder Cup team, being back in the winner’s circle on the PGA Tour.”
Casey is especially motivated to represent Europe at the 2012 Ryder Cup in Medinah, Illinois, having failed to qualify for the 2010 team that regained the trophy at Celtic Manor in Wales.
“I am really hungry to get back on that team,” said the 34-year-old, a Cup player in 2004, 2006 and 2008. “With the depth of talent that we’ve got in Europe, it’s probably going to be the most difficult team to make since I’ve been on tour.
“But first things first, I need to win golf tournaments and get back on that team. And stay healthy.”