TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP: After multiple near misses, Casey ready to make his case at River Highlands

TRAVELERS CHAMPIONSHIP: After multiple near misses, Casey ready to make his case at River Highlands

CROMWELL — It’s no secret Paul Casey enjoys and has had success while playing in the Travelers Championship.

Casey is back at TPC River Highlands for the fifth consecutive year and the player ranked No. 15 in the Official World Golf Rankings is seeking to finally get over the hump after three top-five finishes in the past four years at the Travelers.

“I think it's a multiple of things,” Casey said about what he likes about coming to Connecticut’s PGA Tour stop. “We've got a great golf course. It tests the player and kind of every club in the bag.

“The other factors are maybe you wouldn’t hear from a player is we’ve got great crowds and great energy around this championship.”

Last year, Casey opened up a four-stroke lead on Saturday, shooting a round-best 62. He headed into Sunday as the clear favorite, but was unable to hold on, as Bubba Watson went 7-under to take the 2018 title.

While Watson was unconscious in the final round, Casey had his worst round of the tournament, shooting 2-over and finishing in a four-way tie for second.

“It's more me,” Casey said last year after losing the lead to Watson. “I didn’t get it taken care of today. Credit to his great play. I would have loved to won outright or at least have another go at him in a playoff would have been nice, but not to be.”

Casey had been in that position before, with Watson swooping in to take the Travelers title from him. It was 2015. Casey shot a 6-under 64 and a 5-under 65 to force a sudden death playoff with Watson, but lost on the second hole as Watson birdied to hang on and win.

“Yeah, frustrating. He’s got the better of me a couple times,” Casey said Tuesday. “On both occasions, I made errors and didn't play the golf I wanted to. I would love to play better golf and give him more of a match.

“Yeah, I never think of those losses,” Casey added. “You never think of the other player. In our sport, it's always about, ‘I should have done something different.’ Great thing is we come back every year and I’ve always got a chance to try and get one up on him.”

Currently No. 8 in points in the FedEx Cup Standings, Casey bounced back well after missing the cut at the Masters in April by finishing fourth in the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in North Carolina.

Since then, he’s placed 29th at the PGA Championship and 21st at last week’s U.S. Open in Pebble Beach.

“The format has changed for the Tour Championship, but even more so you want to be near the top when you go into the Tour Championship,” Casey said. “You don’t want to be giving up any shots. So, it’s important. Seems like recently everybody who has kind of just been behind me has been winning.”

For Casey, the Travelers Championship takes on a little extra importance since he doesn’t have much left on his schedule this year before the playoffs. He plans to take a couple weeks off before the British Open and said that this is “a really important week for me.”

And as much as last year stings, Casey has made some necessary adjustments based on that performance.

“This championship last year where I finished second, you know, I did not have a good warmup,” Casey said. “I felt like I just got out of rhythm on the warmup.”

Casey discussed changes within his warmup with both his swing coach Peter Kotsis and caddy John McLaren.

“Nobody ever likes hearing kind of their faults, but we sat down and reviewed it and we discussed how poor the warmup was and how I went to the first tee just a little out of whack,” Casey said. “I've worked incredibly hard on a warmup and controlling that. Now there is a timing to it, a number of golf balls that I hit.

“And that showed itself early this year at Pebble Beach, with all the stopping and starting, and I stayed consistent and ended up with a decent result.”

After making these adjustments, there is good reason to expect that Casey will once again find himself in the hunt for the crown at Travelers.

“You learn in the defeat, learn in the mistakes,” Casey said. “If you don’t, you don’t survive. So as much as it’s painful to lose, it’s when you learn and when you grow.

“The thing that’s great about this championship (is) we know the best player for the week comes out on top. Hopefully, that's me.”