PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club

The Loop

Paired with Jordan Spieth, Paul Casey opens the Masters with a 69


AUGUSTA, Ga. -- When he heard he was playing with Jordan Spieth and Bryson DeChambeau during the first two rounds of the Masters, Paul Casey was convinced somebody was playing a joke.

“I had to ask twice. I truly didn’t believe it,” Casey said of the primo pairing.

The 13-time European Tour winner understands his name no longer carries the same weight as that of the defending Masters champion or the U.S. Amateur/NCAA winner.

With that, the 38-year-old Englishman looked comfortable playing third fiddle on Thursday, posting a three-under 69 to finish three back of Spieth on a windy day that Casey said was among the toughest he has experienced at Augusta National.

Casey’s affinity for the course hasn’t waned since his Masters debut in 2004, even when his game did. Struggles with his swing left Casey watching the Masters from afar in 2013 and 2014, but his T-6 finish in 2015 was his third top-10 in nine Augusta starts and equaled his best showing.

A high ball flight and subtle draw gives him an edge on the Alister Mackenzie gem, and Casey swears his lag putting is to his advantage as well “whether the stats show it or not.”

Still, where the three-time European Ryder Cupper stood out in Round 1 was his ability to whether the weather. After bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes dropped him back to one under on his round, Casey finished the final six holes in two under.

“Hopefully I get paired with great champions all week,” Casey said. “I feed off that.”

No joke.