Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy are both seeking to enhance their burgeoning reputations – and that of golf in Europe – when they tee up at this week’s WGC-CA Championship.
With World Number Six Casey and World Number Nine McIlroy joined in the top ten by fellow European Tour Members Martin Kaymer (eighth), Ian Poulter (fifth), Henrik Stenson (tenth) and Lee Westwood (fourth), European golf is currently in particularly rude health.
All six have arrived at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Florida, America, for the second World Golf Championship of the season.
Casey is one of the bookmakers’ favourites to take the title after he followed his runner-up finish behind his compatriot Poulter at the WGC-Accenture Match Play with a tied fourth at last week’s Honda Classic on the US PGA Tour.
This week’s event has only 68 players in it, with World Number Tiger Woods of America missing and teenage sensation Ryo Ishikawa not playing either because of his school graduation ceremony back home in Japan.
Almost a third of the field are Europeans, including Luke Donald, whose American wife Diane gave birth to their first child last week.
Casey said: “I don’t really have an answer for why there are so many Europeans or Englishmen in the top ten, but I’m certainly enjoying it. It’s a bit of a race right now. Each one of us wants to win a Major, so which of us is going to be the first guy to do it? It’s a cosy feeling with many friends of mine up high in the World Rankings, but it shouldn’t be confused with complacency or a relaxed sort of atmosphere.
“Everyone is pushing each other very, very hard. When Lee [Westwood] was winning The Race to Dubai, we all congratulated him but we want to win it this year. And after Poulter won the Match Play, we want to be the next ones to win a WGC event. Potential is one thing, but these guys are starting to fulfil it and show everybody we have a lot of great players in Europe.”
McIlroy, who described his lunch last week with the great Jack Nicklaus as “the best 90 minutes I’ve spent in a long time”, agreed with Casey.
He said: “I think it’s a great time for British golf, and for European golf as well. It’s been really good over the past few months. There’s obviously a bit of rivalry between us all, but it’s healthy. If I’m not playing an event, I’ll always check up on the guys in and around me in the World Rankings to see how they’re doing, and how they’re playing. It’s great at the minute, and hopefully we can all keep this form up until the first week in October [for The Ryder Cup].”