BRITAIN now has the world No3 in both tennis and golf after Paul Casey grabbed his third win of the year in the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth.
It needed three birdies in the last four holes yesterday, however, for the 31-year-old Ryder Cup star to hold off the challenge of fellow Englishman Ross Fisher, whose best-of-the-week 64 was only one outside the West Course record. The outcome was far from certain when Casey, 41st in the world at the start of 2009 and seventh entering the tournament, found a greenside bunker with his approach to the par five last. But he splashed out to five feet and made no mistake to claim the massive 667,093 first prize at the European Tour's flagship event.
"It was not an easy putt, but any putt to win is something I would like to have," said Casey. "There are great names on this trophy. A lot of people have put in a lot of work, but I have to thank Peter Kostis, my coach in the States. He's more than a coach and we set some lofty goals at the start of the year."
Casey has not disclosed what they were, but world No3 – just like Andy Murray – would certainly have been stretching things. Certainly before the end of May. The last time Britain had a player in the world's top three was Colin Montgomerie nine years ago and since the rankings began in 1986 Nick Faldo, Sandy Lyle and Ian Woosnam are the only others to make it as high. As a youngster growing up in Surrey Casey used to "sneak in" to watch the action on the famous West Course, but now he has won the venue's two biggest titles. Three years ago he won the 1million first prize at the World Match Play.
Two years ago Fisher led with a round to play but crashed to 39th with an 84. This time the final day saw something very different from him. Five behind at the start, he led on his own when he notched his sixth birdie of the day on the long 12th. He also picked up shots on the 17th and 18th, but it was not enough and by just missing an 18-foot eagle chance at the last he had to settle for the 444,729 runners-up cheque.
Casey had not looked at leaderboards on the front nine, but when he did glance up and see that Fisher was on a charge he reacted brilliantly.
After drawing level by matching Fisher's two-putt birdie at the 531-yard 12th he converted a 15-foot chance three holes later – Fisher had missed from half that distance. He then scrambled a par on the 16th after pulling his tee shot into sand, made a nine-footer at the next and after "only" parring the 538-yard 18th in the first three rounds made it fourth time lucky. The birdie was for a 68 and, with four sub-70 rounds, he finished with a 17 under par aggregate of 271.
Demmark's Soren Kjeldsen was third and Welshman Stephen Dodd fourth in a welcome return to form from the former World Cup winner now ranked 477th in the world. Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy was probably expected to mount the stiffest challenge after a Saturday 65 put him third, but he slipped to fifth with a 71.
The most amazing finish came from former Open champion Ben Curtis who birdied the 15th and 16th and then eagled the two closing par fives for a 67 and joint sixth place.
Defending champion Miguel Angel Jimenez had a moment to remember. A year after he aced the fifth en route to victory, the 45-year-old Spaniard made only the third albatross of the European season by sinking a 206-yard six-iron to the fourth. His day also included a triple bogey seven on the 13th, however, as he finished down on level par.
Ryder Cup captain Montgomerie, joint tenth with a round to go, also had a seven and since it came on the 473-yard first that was that for his hopes of getting into contention. The three-time winner's approach flew through the crowd into the bushes and two shots later he was still not on the green.
The Scot took six on the 18th as well and with a 76 for 35th spot Montgomerie has still not had a top-ten finish since he was runner-up in the French Open last June. He was tied seventh with a round to go in the Irish Open last week, but slumped to 41st with an 80 then.
(Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 72)
271 P Casey 69 67 67 68
272 R Fisher 68 73 67 64
275 S Kjeldsen (Den) 69 69 68 69
276 S Dodd 71 68 70 67
278 R McIlroy 72 70 65 71
279 A Wall 67 71 72 69, C Schwartzel (Rsa) 68 72 68 71, B Curtis (USA) 69 70 73 67
280 T Levet (Fra) 70 71 68 71
281 T Aiken (Rsa) 72 67 74 68
282 M Kaymer (Ger) 72 70 70 70, G Fdez-Castano (Spa) 67 77 70 68
283 G McDowell 75 71 68 69, A Tadini (Ita) 74 71 69 69, N Dougherty 73 71 67 72
284 R Rock 71 74 69 70, T Bjorn (Den) 73 73 70 68, J-F Lucquin (Fra) 70 72 72 70, S Dyson 74 69 68 73, A Quiros (Spa) 69 71 73 71
285 R J Derksen (Ned) 71 74 69 71, A Hansen (Den) 72 70 71 72, S Hansen (Den) 73 70 71 71, P Waring 75 71 70 69, P Broadhurst 73 72 68 72, M Warren 72 66 71 76, A Noren (Swe) 69 71 72 73, E Els (Rsa) 73 73 70 69, M Brier (Aut) 70 74 72 69, F Zanotti (Par) 70 75 71 69, R Green (Aus) 72 74 68 71