If former Irish Open winner Paul Casey should capture the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, he has Graeme McDowell, in part, to thank for a third PGA Tour triumph.
Casey and McDowell were playing partners for the opening three rounds and it’s Casey who takes a three-shot lead at 15-under par into the last day on the famed Pebble Beach course.
The 41-year old, who captured the 2013 Irish Open at Carton House, had shot a 64 on day two at the Monterey Peninsula course with the Englishman and his 2018 Ryder Cup vice-captain partner just managing to complete their round when a ‘bad weather’ siren sounded to halt play.
Casey and McDowell, clearly enjoying each other’s company, then headed to Spyglass Hills on day three with Casey grabbing six birdies in a 67 that eventually found him enjoying a three shot lead in the Euro6.7m tournament.
“It was great day’s golf and I played very, very well , so very happy with my score,” Casey said.
“I am having a blast. I’ve played the three rounds with Graeme McDowell and we’re having a great time out there along with his amateur partner and my partner, Don Colleran from FedEx. We teamed-up together here last year and we had good success. We’re chasing Fitzgerald and who was it, Streelman? We’re determined to try and beat them this year so we’re putting up a good challenge.
“With the course being very soft you have to be very aggressive, you have to manage spin as much as you can. I just saw Phil’s shot out of the bunker at 4 at Pebble. It’s very difficult to get close to some of the back-pin locations.
“But the guys know these courses well because we play them all the time in the rotation. The courses are doing remarkably well considering somebody threw out a stat that we have had half the rainfall, annual rainfall in a few days or whatever stat was, I don’t know.
“So the courses are doing well, the staff have been amazing to prepare the courses the way they did, especially after yesterday’s deluge. They should be applauded.”
Of course, it’s not lost on Casey that this year’s US Open will return to Pebble Beach for a first occasion since 2010 when he enjoyed a three-way share of the opening round lead before eventually finishing T40th behind McDowell.
And Casey was quizzed if he learnt anything ahead of returning in June from walking three rounds in the company of McDowell.
“Actually, very little,” said Casey smiling.
“G-Mac and I didn’t really discuss, it got mentioned once within the first three holes, I think, mentioned 2010, when was it? 2010? I think I shot 69 in the first round and was tied for the lead and then I finished middle of the pack or bottom of the pack.
“I didn’t watch much of G Mac’s final round, admittedly. No, we just, we have been friends for such a long time through amateur golf and now professional golf. We chat about everything but. Food mainly. And alcohol (laughing).”
McDowell’s efforts over the three days, and in his very first event of 2019, are very commendable considering he continues to have his left wrist heavily-strapped after bruising his lunate bone while practicing during a New Year family holiday in The Bahamas.
Competing thanks to a sponsor’s invitation at Pebble Beach where he captured the 2010 U.S Open, McDowell heads to day four sharing 18th place at seven-under par with scores of 68, 70 and 70.
G Mac’s third round was a mix of four birdies and half as many bogeys.
“I am surprised with how well I am playing given I hadn’t hit a golf ball prior to this week since December 29th,” said McDowell.
“Conditions are still tough out there and with Spyglass, like the other courses, a lot softer under foot after the deluge we had late yesterday.
“So, two-under was a good result and I’m really pleased.
“My wrist is still about 80% but I’m managing it fine.”
While McDowell’s return to the Tour hopefully could end with a remarkable top-10, sadly, Shane Lowry’s return to PGA company for a first occasion in six months ended with the Offaly golfer missing the third round cut despite a day three 67.
Lowry began on Thursday with a one-under 70 on Spyglass Hills but lost sight of making the cut in the rain on day two after ending with a horror 77.
The Irishman will next tee-up in the February 21st starting WGC – Mexico Championship.
FULL SCORING HERE