Reuters - Tue, 09 Mar 20:00:00 2010
English golf is enjoying a spell of rare global prominence with three players in the top 10 of the world rankings, and world number six Paul Casey believes the credit lies with a great generation of Europeans ushered in by Seve Ballesteros.
Ten years ago there were just two Englishmen in the top 100 but with Casey now just below fourth-ranked Lee Westwood and fifth-placed Ian Poulter, the transformation has been impressive.
"My take on it is, it's the result of the great European golf that I was watching when I was a kid back in the 80s and early 90s," Casey said ahead of this week's WGC-CA Championship at Doral.
"Nick Faldo, Seve, Ian Woosnam, Bernhard Langer, Sandy Lyle, Monty (Colin Montgomerie) ... (Jose Maria) Olazabal was quite young but he was sort of part of that movement too. Those Europeans got me interested in the game.
"That was when I loved to watch and I got to see them live.
"I think if you asked these other Englishmen, Brits and Europeans who have now risen among us in the world rankings that was the reason they got hooked," said Casey.
"It's just taken 20 years or so for us to hone our skills."
For the 32-year-old Casey it was five-times Major winner Ballesteros who made the biggest impression.
"I remember each one of those great golfers for different reasons. For Seve it was the passion, it was the sort of spirit he played it in and the recovery shots.
"More often than not the memories are the shots he hit out of trouble, difficult situations ... I don't remember the pure shots he hit from the middle of the fairway even though I'm sure they were fantastic," said Casey.
"It was that 'anything's possible' attitude and usually he pulled the shots off. I got to see it live and I feel very, very lucky I got to see it in person."
Casey, Westwood and Poulter are now mentioned among the contenders in each tournament they enter but it is the search for a Major title -- the last Englishman to win one was Faldo at the Masters 14 years ago -- that animates them the most.
"It's a bit of a race right now. I think a big challenge is each one of us wants to win a Major ... who is going to be the first guy to do it?," said Casey.
"When you think of how many good Englishmen there have been, potential is one thing but these guys are starting to fulfil it and show everybody we have a lot of great players."