Thursday, 21 August 2008

Back in the Hunt...er, Birdie Hunter, Fedex Cup Cash Hunter, I could go on...

I never thought that my blog would come to be dominated by two characters in the game as it seems to have become. Especially not two which I'm not particularly bothered about. But then they've been embroiled in the Ryder Cup race and had two stories of such hilarity I couldn't help myself but write about them. Hunter "Say No To Ryder Slavery" Mahan and Paul "Willie Nelson's Hate Object" Casey are my most written about players thus far, but today it's all for the right reasons, which though slightly less amusing, is much more promising for Ryder Cup Captains, Azinger and Faldo.

The pair have hit form at precisely the right time at "The Barclays", Mahan needing it more than most after his shocking USPGA performance. Hitting a superb nine under 62, it's an incredible return to form for a man who looked like he had not only talked his way out of a wild card a few weeks ago but was playing his way out of it too; finishing dead last of the Tour professionals with massive scores at the USPGA.

"I wanted to get that out of my system and just play golf today -- and I did. It was a pretty tough week, but you learn from your mistakes."

Things got off to a flying start for Hunter. After a great drive, he had a 98-yard wedge left which grabbed and spun back into the hole for an eagle at the first. Three more birdies came in quick succession, the only setback, his solitary bogey on eight. Fired up Mahan wasn't in the mood to let that bother him however as he blitzed the back nine with five birdied to sit four shots clear overnight. Playing near flawless golf, Mahan hit 11 of 14 fairways, 15 greens in regulation and only 23 putts and has shot himself right back to the top of the potential wild card pack.

Paul Casey is another looking for wild card brownie points this week and his round of 66 was just what the doctor ordered. The crucial factor in successful matchplay is making birdies and Casey hit eight today, which will not have gone un-noticed by Mr Faldo in the commentary box. The three birdies he won't be concerned about, that round would be a killer in a fourball, so if he keeps that up Casey will be looking good for selection. He's now hit 66, 67, 66, 66 in his last four rounds and I bet Faldo's licking his lips.

Something which might concern him is the poor showing of Ian Poulter today. In great conditions, he shot a decidedly mediocre 2 over, only one birdie appearing on his card and three dropped shots. Not what Casey was looking for...

"Everybody is talking about the sort of notable players, the guys who have played Ryder Cup before who are not on the team. Ian is one, Monty (Colin Montgomerie) is another and Darren Clarke. They have to be my rivals when it comes to a pick. So all I can do is play exceptionally good golf here, put myself on the radar in terms of what Nick is thinking, and if he doesn't have to pick Ian, then there's more chance that I might get picked. So I hope Ian plays well."

So at least Casey got half of what he wanted today, he'll be praying that Poulter shakes himself off and climbs the leaderboard over the weekend.

This is the first stage of the Fedex Cup play-offs it should be noted and a win here will be a huge step toward that massive final $10 million jackpot pension I was banging on about previously. Is it the money that motivated Hunter this morning? I wouldn't be so cynical as to suggest such a thing...

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