Paul Casey rising to the fore and playing like his old self again in Australia

FORMER world No 3 Paul Casey continued his return to form to sit amongst the leaders on the opening day of the inaugural ISPS HANDA Perth International.

Casey made the most of perfect conditions to card a five- under-par round of 67 to be two shots behind joint leaders Michael Hendry and Alejandro Canizares.

Englishman Casey has struggled for form this year after suffering a dislocated shoulder in a snowboarding accident last Christmas.

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The 35-year-old did, however, show he was on the way back at last week’s Shinhan Donghae Open on the Korea Golf Tour with a third-place finish and could have gone even lower yesterday but for some missed putts.

His long hitting served him well on the picturesque Lake Karrinyup Country Club course as he birdied all four par-5s, and picked up a further shot on the par-4 tenth, in an unblemished round.

“I’ve got some very good golf that is starting to show through,” said Casey. “I’m going to fight and start playing the golf I know I’m capable of and today was the start of that.”

While his injury problems have seen Casey slip to 132nd in the world, he was the highest-ranked player on a leaderboard dominated by little known names.

New Zealander Hendry defied his world ranking of 574 as he fired eight birdies in a round that was matched by Canizares, whose only win on the European Tour came six years ago.

Canizares, the world No 246, was runner-up at the Reale Seguros Open de Espana earlier this season but has since slipped to 70th in the race to Dubai.

With only the top 60 set to qualify to play at the Jumeirah Golf Estates in late November, the 29-year-old knows this may be his last chance.

“I’m 70th at the moment so this is either my last or my second to last tournament of the year,” he said. “I need a good finish - if I win it will fix a lot of things.”

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He added: “I played pretty steady the whole round and gave myself plenty of chances. I think I only missed two greens in the whole round and one of them I chipped in on the eighth hole, par 3, which was a bonus. I putted well. I missed a couple short ones on 14 and 15 for birdie, but I made a long one on 17, so I made up for that and made a good one for put on 18.”

Argentinian Emiliano Grillo, who is also ranked outside the top 500, sat in between Casey and the leaders after his 66 included an eagle three at the 15th.

While the lesser lights took centre stage, tournament drawcard Jason Dufner endured a mixed day in his first appearance since the United States lost the Ryder Cup.

Dufner had got off to a healthy beginning when he birdied three of his opening six holes but from there he struggled, carding four bogeys in total, to finish the day with a 71.

Fellow American Bo van Pelt was a shot better off while Edoardo Molinari, the brother of one of Europe’s Ryder Cup heroes Francesco, was also back in the field on one under.

Meanwhile, England’s Greg Owen held the clubhouse lead during the first round of The McGladrey Classic in Georgia following a six-under-par 64.

Owen shot a flawless round, with birdies at the 11th, 15th, first, second, fourth and seventh after starting on the back nine, to get off to an ideal start on the Seaside Course at Sea Island.