When Paul Casey reached the final green Thursday, he looked over his right shoulder, craning his neck to peek at a leader board shrouded slightly by a large oak tree.
Once the world’s third-ranked golfer, Casey had fallen to 169th in the world only a month ago. But near the end of his first round at the PGA a, Casey had found a reason to smile. He did not turn his gaze from the leader board. Instead, with each beat of his heart, it appeared his smile grew wider.
“It’s been a while since I’ve seen my name up there,” Casey said after he shot a three-under-par 67. “I couldn’t help it. I just wanted to check it out. I appreciate being back on the big stage. It has been quite a while.”
On Christmas Eve in 2011, it had seemed like a good idea to go snowboarding. Casey wore a helmet and wrist guards. A good athlete dedicated to a rigorous fitness regimen, Casey felt certain he was not endangering his vocation..The injuries
He was a three-time Ryder Cup member, consistent contender on the European and American golf circuits and a bright young face of international golf, an affable Englishman who lived in Arizona. He had slipped some in the world golf rankings, but he was still in the top 20. But protective equipment was not enough to shield Casey when he slipped in the snow on that Christmas Eve day and toppled hard to the snow. When he got back to his feet, his dislocated right shoulder slumped halfway to his waist. The joint was restored to its proper alignment in the hospital. But his fall was only beginning.
Casey avoided shoulder surgery but returned to golf too soon for his own good, playing in March 2012. As many athletes subconsciously do after a serious injury, he changed his swing to protect his recovering shoulder. That alteration led to wayward shots and other swing complications, and it eventually caused a frightening lack of confidence.
Casey endured a span of 18 tournaments when he made just four cuts. Stripped of his Tour card, his world ranking plummeted month by month: 35, 48, 70, 95, 112, 132, 169. This year opened ominously. He missed the cut at the Honda Classic, finished 77th at the Puerto Rico Open and missed the cut at the Shell Houston Open. But now on the big stage of major championship golf, Casey was back. And so was his smile.
Adam Scott pulls ahead
Adam Scott, the co-leader from the opening round pulled ahead with another flurry of birdies on Friday at the PGA Championship, taking advantage of an Oak Hill course softened even more by morning showers.
The Australian, who opened with a five-under 65, pushed his score to eight-under through 15 holes — three shots clear of the field. He had four birdies, most notably sinking a 40-foot putt at the second.