Paul Casey slipped off the leaderboard with a back nine of 41 at Royal Lytham yesterday, but was more disappointed at being denied his chance to emulate a legendary shot by the late Seve Ballesteros.
Ballesteros was dubbed the ‘car park champion” following his first Open victory at Lytham in 1979, the Spaniard earning the nickname after hitting his drive on the 16th hole in the final round into a temporary car park, but still making a birdie three.
Casey was playing the 15th hole yesterday, which runs parallel to the 16th, when he sliced his drive into a similar area, but was then told it was now deemed an internal out of bounds.
That meant hitting another ball off the tee and led to a double-bogey six, with the Ryder Cup star eventually signing for a two-over 72 after reaching three under after eight holes.
“My only disappointment is I knocked it in Seve’s car park, obviously off the wrong hole, and it’s now out of bounds,” Casey said.
“And I have to confess, I wasn’t aware it was out of bounds – internal out of bounds, I’ve never been a fan of it.
“I would have enjoyed the challenge. There were no cars there, [but] a burger van and a couple of pie stands and an ice cream van or something like that. I would love to have carved one around to the green, but I wasn’t allowed to.”
Casey’s 72 at least represented a welcome improvement on his recent scores as he tries to rediscover top form following a lengthy shoulder injury.
The 34-year-old is 47 over par on the European Tour this season – his previous four rounds had been 80, 80, 76 and 76 – but he said: “I take a lot of good out of (yesterday’s round). That’s the best golf that I’ve played so far this year.
“That front nine was great. It was wonderful stuff. The goal for the day was to go out there and play worry free, just enjoy myself, and I did that. I soaked up what I thought was a great atmosphere, a lot of support.
“I threw some birdies out there, gave people something to cheer about, and I had a blast. I’m very positive about that and it shows the golf that I know I’m going to start playing very, very soon.
“I’m not going to worry about the scores. To me it’s the attitude and the way I conduct myself out there and not putting pressure on myself.
“I care an awful lot, but I’m not going to worry about it, if that makes sense.”
Meanwhile, Tom Watson is still going strong at 62 – as young playing partners Martin Kaymer and Ryo Ishikawa will testify after being given a beating.
While former world No 1 Kaymer crashed to a 77 and Japanese star Ishikawa had to settle for a 74, the man playing his 35th Open Championship had a one-over-par 71.
It was Watson’s second-best score at Lytham since making his debut on the course when Ballesteros won the first of his three Claret Jugs in 1979.
It was only three years ago, of course, that the five-time champion was one putt away from becoming the oldest major winner by a staggering 11 years, at Turnberry.