Paul Casey of England is surely one of the best players in the game without a major title.
Casey has won 20 tournaments, including 14 on the European Tour, and has been ranked as high as No. 3, in 2009. He has participated in four Ryder Cups.
This past season, Casey, 42, posted seven top 10s on the PGA Tour, winning the Valspar Championship in Florida. He also captured the Porsche European Open last month in Germany.
Casey, ranked No. 14, will compete in the Italian Open at the Olgiata Golf Club in Rome, the first time he has played as a professional in Italy.
He reflected recently on the Ryder Cup and his goal to represent his country at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
The following conversation has been edited and condensed.
Why play in Italy now?
I’ve got to fulfill my minimum requirement for the European Tour, and I love the country. I’m actually there in a couple of days for vacation.
What is your favorite Ryder Cup memory?
Nothing beats that first tee shot [in 2004] at Oakland Hills. You just can’t forget that. I was incredibly calm, actually, in Paris last year. I was surprised: “Wow, I’m kind of enjoying this.” I guess I’ve come of age where I’m more at ease with things.
What did you do with that first tee shot?
I hit a good shot. I thinned it, but it went straight. That’s all that matters. I’ve never been so happy for a thinned shot in my life.
You brought up Paris. What did it feel like to be back in the Ryder Cup?
That was one of the most rewarding things I’ve accomplished in the game: making that team and then contributing to that team. I’ll admit, I wasn’t sure if I would ever play another one.
How badly do you want to play in the 2020 Olympics, and how will that affect your schedule?
I’ll play the world ranking game; I’m not afraid to say it. If I’m down at the bottom of a tournament some weeks, you won’t see anybody fighting harder than myself for that 50th place, or 49th place, or whatever it is. I’ll be 43 when the Olympics takes place next year, so I think it’s fair to say that it’s really my last opportunity.
Are you already feeling that sense of finite quality of the time left in your career?
I don’t have the physical attributes maybe I had 10 or 15 years ago, but I’m still physically gifted. But, yeah, I’m aware of it. I’m not overly worried. I actually see it more of a challenge. I was the oldest guy at the Tour Championship this year. I’d like to be the oldest guy to win majors and win W.G.C. [World Golf Championships] events.
You have wins all around the world, but only three in the United States. Did you expect to have had more in the U.S.?
It would be nice, but you’ve got to remember that there was an awful long time in my career where I played two tours. The only events I played in the U.S. would be the majors, W.G.C., Players Championship, Bay Hill, Memorial. And guess who won all those? Yeah, I would love more victories, but I’m very proud and happy to have played in the era of Tiger Woods’ dominance.
What have you not accomplished in the game that you’re still striving for?
Sit me down in maybe another five years and go, “You won this, but you didn’t win that, how do you feel about it?” I don’t know that any of that is going to bother me. To me, it’s how I’ve behaved as a person, and a golfer.
I think I will be very satisfied if I worked as hard as I could, had a lot of fun on the way, entertained people, gave to charity. That’s how I’m going to measure it. If I win another five times in the next three years, including a major, great. But if I’m not happy doing it and I’m not helping others along the way, what’s the point of it all?
If you wind up without a major, it sounds like you won’t be haunted by that.
It’s incredibly flattering when people go, “Paul Casey is one of the best players in the world who has not won a major.” But I’d rather be a guy who doesn’t win a major and is a good guy. I’ve had ups and downs in this game. There were times many years ago when I thought I lost my golf game and wouldn’t get it back.