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Casey 'on a bit of a high'

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

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Paul Casey went from the winner's podium in Houston on Sunday to Augusta National Golf Club on Monday with reason to feel confident.

Casey (PGA Tour)

The 31-year-old Englishman hopes to carry the momentum of his playoff win at the Shell Houston Open into his fifth Masters Tournament appearance.

Though Casey has come close to a green jacket, with three top-11 finishes in four tries, he's never made the trip to Augusta on such a roll.

"I'm on a bit of a high," he said. "You always pick up a bit of a high when you walk through the gates here, but I seem to be on a little bit more of a high right now."

Life has been good for the Arizona State product since he ended 2008 ranked 42nd in the Official World Golf Ranking. He married in December, won the Abu Dhabi Championship on the European Tour in January, had a second-place finish at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in February and added his first PGA Tour victory Sunday.

He has jumped to sixth in the rankings and enters the Masters ranked fifth on the money list.

"Marriage has been good to me. I should have done it earlier, I guess," he said. "I'm just having fun. I'm enjoying my golf right now, staying pretty relaxed and working hard, not taking myself too seriously and just getting on with it."

Casey, fresh off a tournament that required him to play more than a round and a half of golf Sunday because of delays earlier in the week, stayed off the course Monday and instead hit the driving range and chipping area.

He already is familiar with the course, having tied for sixth in his debut in 2004 and tied for 10th and 11th the past two years in Augusta. He entered last year's final round four strokes off the lead at 7-under par, thanks to back-to-back rounds of 69, but a 79 in Sunday's windy conditions put him out of contention.

Casey said the mental energy required to win a major makes posting four consecutive low rounds difficult.

"You make one or two errors, and that's enough to ruin your chances. You can't do that," he said. "You can get away with poor golf shots if you miss them in the right places, but you can't get away with lapses of concentration. You need to have all the tools in the bag, and that mental game is another club that some guys are better at hitting than others."

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

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