Bunker Mentality

Devilish Casey defies omens

Bunker Mentality

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Golfers tend to be a superstitious bunch: Tiger Woods is
famous for wearing red shirts on Sundays, Payne Stewart used to immediately discard
balls that he had made bogeys with, while Jesper Parnevik's superstitions could
have filled a book. He once asked his wife to buy him five new pairs of pants
every week, simply because he won the Honda Open one week after she'd happened
to buy him some new underwear.

So Paul Casey might have been a little worried to find
himself in room 666 in his hotel for last week's Volvo Champions tournament in
Bahrain.

It was no problem for Casey, however, who shrugged off the
satanic connotations and played heavenly golf to win his first tournament in
nearly two years.

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Paul Casey of England holds the trophy Sunday, Jan. 30, 2011, after winning the European Tour's Volvo Golf Champions Tournament at the Royal Golf Club
BM was delighted to see Casey win again. He was once a
notoriously prickly character - a bit of a devil, if you like, though not in a
charming or roguish way - but has mellowed with age.

And it was a bitter irony, then, that he was blighted by fitness
problems over the last couple of seasons just when his golf seemed to be
approaching a new peak. Wins at the Shell Houston Open and the BMW PGA Championship
in the Spring of 2009 should have been followed by a step up to the Major
winning circle; instead, he had a patchy couple of years that must have been
endlessly frustrating.

Let's hope his rib and shoulder issues seem to be things of
the past, because his win at the weekend means he has six top-six finishes in
his last seven tournaments.

With form like that there's no doubt that he must already be
considered one of the favourites to win The Masters in April. And if he touches
enough wood and keeps his fingers crossed, he may well become the next European
to follow Graeme McDowell and Martin Kaymer into the Major winners' circle.

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Tweets of the week: The news of Casey's room number, incidentally, came to our
attention via Ian Poulter's increasingly prolific Twitter page.

Poults has long been the king of the golfing tweets, with
his brilliant virtual banter: Paul Azinger being one of the highlights of
the Ryder Cup build-up last year.

Poults has successfully brought Lee Westwood into the
Twittersphere, but try as he might he has yet to bring another famous Tweeter
into his circle of fun. Last week, Poults tried everything to try to get a rise
out of Tiger Woods via his Twitter page
, but without success.

And frankly, who can blame him? Given the role the internet
played in the escalation and dissemination of details over the sex scandal
which ruined his reputation (and possibly also his career), BM is slightly
amazed that Tiger signed up in the first place - and we still wouldn't blame
him if he didn't have an irrestistible urge to smash the screen of any laptop
or smartphone which happened to come within the radius of a swipe with a
9-iron.

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Tiger Woods rehearses his swing while playing the South Course at Torrey Pines during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open golf tournament in
Obligatory Tiger Woods-related comment of the week: Speaking of Tiger, BM stands ashen faced with shame at our confident
prediction last week. For those that missed it, we were convinced that
Torrey Pines would see Tiger begin the process of reclaiming his crown from Westwood.

The prediction proved as accurate as our soothsaying effort
of last summer, in which we told anybody who would listen that Peter Alliss
would mark the 150th anniversary Open at St Andrews by hanging up his
microphone for good.

Neither prediction came true; though at least the exploits
of the likes of Kaymer and Bubba Watson have filled the gap, while Woods is coming
out of the woods. We hate to think how bland the BBC's golf coverage will be when Alliss, the ultimate love-him-or-love-to-hate-him commentator, finally decides he's had enough.

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Mickelson walks off the 18th green after finishing second during Farmers Insurance Open PGA golf tournament in San Diego
Surprise of the week: Tiger Woods isn't the only player who just isn't himself at
the moment. What about Phil Mickelson?

Lefty passed up the chance of a win at the weekend by laying
up on the 72nd hole at Torrey Pines - an reachable par-five - when it turned out
that he needed an eagle to tie for the lead.

Mickelson didn't know that he needed the eagle at the time,
but why didn't he wait to find out? The sight of one of the game's most attack-minded
players laying up when within sight of victory was bizarre, as jarring a
spectacle as if Tiger had broken into a ukulele routine on the final green.

Phil restored his reputation in our minds by coming within a
few RPM of spinning his wedge shot into the cup for a three to tie Watson and
force a play-off, but it was all too late.

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Putter of the week: Miguel Angel Jimenez's lob wedge, which
he used on the last five holes of the second round in Bahrain after smashing
his putter in frustration at a miss on the 13th.

What a move it proved to be: the Spaniard canned a huge
birdie putt on the 15th, then knocked in two more birdies on the 16th and 17th
to put himself in a tie for the lead and set himself up for a second-place finish.
If he'd parred his way in with an unbroken putter he would have finished sixth
instead of second, and would have cost himself around 100,000 euros.

Let that be a lesson to us all, and a pat on the back to unashamedly
angry golfers everywhere...

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Spectator of the week: Some people will do anything to save
a $26 entrance fee to watch the golf, as this enterprising chap (below) proved by
deciding to fly his hang glider over the stunning clifftops at Torrey Pines.
Hunter Mahan is the player being disturbed in our pic; Mahan was tied with
eventual winner Watson going into the final round, but slumped to a
closing 73 to see his chances fade.

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Mahan lines up a putt during the final round of the Farmers Insurance Open PGA golf tournament in San Diego

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