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Casey's FedEx success keeps focus on Ryder Cup snub

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer
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The popping-off populace has spoken.

Colin Montgomerie, who possesses the biggest set of rabbit ears in golf history, might even have heard the protests on the other side of the pond. Lord knows the complaints were loud, caustic and consistent enough.

Monty, captain of the European Ryder Cup team, drew scads of criticism both in the States and abroad for passing over England's Paul Casey for one of his discretionary picks more than two weeks ago, and the Scot has been getting savaged ever since.

Paul Casey is among the leading contenders to claim the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus prize. (Getty Images)  
Paul Casey is among the leading contenders to claim the $10 million FedEx Cup bonus prize. (Getty Images)  
Unfettered and unfiltered, Monty has been getting pounded like a drum. Maybe that's an eardrum, because Casey keeps hearing running commentary from the American fans about his ridiculous exclusion from the team.

"There's been something [said] every day," Casey said last week in Chicago, grinning.

Casey, a British expat of sorts who has lived in the States for most of his pro career, has been universally embraced by American crowds since his snub by Monty, to the point where it has become a running gag. It began a couple of days after Casey was passed over for one of Monty's three wild-card picks in favor of players many pundits believed weren't playing nearly as well.

When he played at TPC Boston, accented catcalls filled the air. The last time a British leader annoyed the local Yanks to this degree, they started heaving tea into Boston Harbor. It didn't stop in Chicago, either.

Monty sucks.

Mrs. Doubtfire wears army boots.

Your captain is an idiot.

Well, he's not Casey's captain, though, is he? Casey has been all but adopted by American fans, which has helped take the sting out of the slap. Well, some of it.

"It's a great ... consolation prize," Casey said, pausing and picking his words carefully. "Seriously, it's been nearly every day. Today, somebody yelled, 'I'll get you a green card.'"

Frankly, a green light from Monty was clearly deserved, a view that grows more obvious every day. Casey was ranked in the world top 10 when he was skipped over, he has played more tournaments in Europe than two of the players picked in his stead and has a seriously impressive match-play résumé. He has since moved up to world No. 7.

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Casey, 33, has gone to painful lengths to avoid disparaging the captain, the players picked ahead of him or the complex selection process. He has been tempted, but there's nothing to be gained and he would get savaged by the media overseas if he does. So he keeps biting his lip and biding his time.

"I think he has rebounded pretty well from the initial shock and disappointment," caddie Christian Donald said. "He took it on the chin and wished the team good luck."

By next week, he could have the last laugh, indeed. By virtue of his runner-up finish last week at the BMW Championship in Chicago, Casey moved up to fifth in the FedEx Cup race, which ensures that if he wins next week at East Lake Golf Club in Atlanta he will claim the $10 million bonus. That would make the bicycling trip he has since planned in Canada during Ryder Cup week seem a lot less like mindless spinning of his wheels, uh?

Winning the FedEx title, last claimed by Tiger Woods, would represent an incredible, emphatic, nonverbal counterpoint to the snub. Across the Atlantic next week, Padraig Harrington -- the wild-card player who generated the most handwringing -- will be playing in a European Tour event, hoping to show any improvement in form to justify his selection. Harrington got bounced out of the FedEx series after two events.

American players, including Ryder Cup veteran Stewart Cink, reached out to Casey, too. Cink lost in a team match to Casey in Ireland four years ago when the Englishman aced a par-3 14th hole to end a 5-and-4 route.

"I'll be upset you won't be making any holes-in-one on me," Cink said, obviously kidding.

Casey, who has earned a career-best $3.3 million in the States this year, is married to an American and spends most of his time in the Phoenix area, which in the minds of some seems to have actually hurt his chances of making the European team. One U.K. media outlet opined that he has become too American, which is hard to view as an insult. At least from over here.

Fan Poll

Who should have been left off the European Ryder Cup team for Paul Casey?

Padraig Harrington
65%
Luke Donald
20%
Justin Rose
15%

Total Votes: 834

Some of the character assassination was downright cruel. When the picks were announced, Casey was broadly characterized as an unpopular player in the team room, not well-liked by tour players, and as aloof and cocky.

Just this week, the highly regarded Guardian phrased an observation to European vice-captain Paul McGinley thusly: Did the fact that Casey is an unpopular figure on the European Tour count against him?

The fact? That's not a question in search of an answer. That's a declarative and editorialized statement.

Frankly, for many who have dealt with Casey in the States, the shots at his character have been as tough to understand. Sure, at times, he's a smart aleck in the Phil Mickelson vein, but Casey hardly seems a divisive person.

If this is how the European side is constructing its team, then the Monty brain trust deserves to lose. The Scot surrounded himself with European Tour members like Darren Clarke, Thomas Bjorn and McGinley as his vice-captains. Of the four, only Clarke has ever been a member of the PGA Tour, and it was for a brief period in the mid-2000s. Being overly provincial about the process is as ill-advised as it is isolationist.

The captaincy staff wanted Harrington, Casey, Justin Rose and Luke Donald to seek qualifying points available via European Tour events like the Czech Open when a series of four huge-money FedEx series events were approaching in the States, all staged against the best competition possible.

Maybe Casey has indeed become a Yankee by osmosis, and good for him. It's hard for anybody over here to see anything illogical about the choice he made. The guy stands to be handed $11.35 million in Atlanta on Sunday night if he wins the Tour Championship, where he only has to beat 29 guys. God Bless America.

He has already said as much based on his recent reception. Last week in Chicago, Casey related a story in which a fan in Boston watched him roll in a long putt and yelled, "If that's the way you putt, I'm glad they didn't pick you."

In truth, that's exactly the way he putts, and it could generate migraines in Europe if Casey wins the FedEx sweepstakes the day before Ryder Cup week begins.

As the Irish Independent put it this week: "It's the nightmare scenario for Colin Montgomerie."

Casey can put a new spin on an old cliché: Don't get mad, get rich.

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