Casey reigns in Bahrain

1/30/2011 1:49:29 PM
Paul Casey  (Getty Images)
Paul Casey (Getty Images)

Paul Casey came through what he called "one of the toughest battles I've ever had" to end 20 months without a victory.

The Englishman sank a closing six foot par putt to take the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions on the Colin Montgomerie-designed Royal Golf Club course in Bahrain.

After an amazing 23 changes at the top of the leaderboard on the final day, Casey came to the 429 yard last level with Swede Peter Hanson.

Montgomerie had tipped Hanson - "probably Europe's most improved player" - to lift the trophy, but he went from rough to sand, then missed from ten feet and with a bogey five dropped into a tie for second with Miguel Angel Jiménez.

Casey, at ninth in the Official World Golf Ranking the highest player in the field, said: "It feels fantastic - the most important thing to me is winning and that was huge.

"The goal is obviously the Majors, but how are you going to win Major Championships if you can't win regular events?"

He grabbed the €283,329 first prize with a four under par 68 and 20 under total of 268.

Third on the Official World Golf Ranking before he tore a rib muscle practising for the 2009 Open Championship, Casey moves back into the top six and will be fifth if Phil Mickelson finishes worse than second in San Diego later in the day. That would also mean an incredible four Europeans in the top five - Lee Westwood, Martin Kaymer and Graeme McDowell remaining first, second and fourth.

"I'm going in the right direction," he added.

Course-record rounds of 63 from Dane Søren Kjeldsen and England's Richard Finch flattered to deceive in the desert because by the time the leaders came to the back nine a strong wind had picked up.

"We thought it was going to be benign, but we faced a course that was treacherous," said Casey.

Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Hanson's compatriot Johan Edfors and South African James Kingston all slipped up after holding at least a share of the lead, Clarke having bogey sixes on both the ninth and 13th and finishing with a double bogey.

Casey got his nose in front with an 18 foot birdie putt on the 15th, but had his only bogey of the last two rounds on the next.

Jiménez's chances were alive again when he birdied the last and Hanson bogeyed it, but Casey kept his nerve and got up and down from the rough by the green to squeeze home.

"I was lucky to have a putt to win. Peter was phenomenal and didn't make any mistakes really until the last."

Not quite true. Hanson was also left to rue a missed three footer on the long 14th.

Scotland's Stephen Gallacher took fourth place and Swede Robert Karlsson, the defending champion in Qatar this coming week, came fifth.