Casey pulls out of Houston Open

DEFENDING champion Paul Casey suffered a blow to his Masters build-up yesterday when he was unable to defend his Houston Open title.

Due to partner Phil Mickelson in the opening two rounds, England’s world No 6 tweaked a muscle in his back near his left shoulder and withdrew just before his 8am tee-off time. Casey said it was not related at all to the torn chest muscle which kept him out of action late last season and hoped it was a just a “sleeping wrong” problem which would quickly respond to treatment.

Casey spoke earlier in the week of feeling ready to become the first Englishman to lift a major title since Nick Faldo at the 1996 Masters.

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“I’m older, greyer and yeah, I feel like the next eight to ten years, that’s my big opportunity,” he said. “I think there have been certain things in the past which were maybe weaknesses in the game, like an acceptance of everything that will go with becoming a major champion.

“Sometimes something like that seems fairly trivial, but that will hold you back as a player.”

As least he will not now have the same tiredness at Augusta which he suffered from following his victory in Houston last year. “I will admit that I think it took a little bit of steam out of me for the following week last year,” he stated. “If you don’t have everything in place going into a major then you’re going to be found out. I think if you look at my results after winning tournaments I have struggled slightly. After winning in Abu Dhabi I’ve missed the cut a couple of times in Qatar.”

Casey was part of a strong European contingent in Texas on a course set up to help golfers prepare for the Masters.

Compatriots Lee Westwood, Chris Wood, Luke Donald, Justin Rose, Brian Davis, Simon Dyson and Greg Owen were also in the field – Rose, Davis and Owen have to win to qualify for Augusta – plus Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, and Scot Martin Laird.