Paul Casey prevailed at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic, for a 15th victory on the European Tour, and then struggled to keep his emotions in check.
“I think I've cried 15 times on the European Tour,” said the Englishman as the four-stroke win started to sink in.
Casey, 43, had begun Sunday at Emirates Golf Club with a one-shot lead over playing partner Robert MacIntyre, but aside from the Scot drawing level early on, on the second, he was never truly troubled.
At one stage, Casey’s cushion was five. By the time he sauntered up the 18th, Brandon Stone now closest to him on the leaderboard but not really within sight, his advantage was three.
A closing birdie gave him a two-under-par 70 and an unassailable 17-under total. He smiled wide as his eyes welled up.
“I'm so over the moon,” Casey said. “Not just 15. The fact it's Dubai; it's an iconic event on the European Tour, one of the coolest trophies around.
“And the fact that last year was just, like for a lot of people, rubbish. Obviously we're still in difficult times, still in the middle of a pandemic, but [this is] something very cool.
“I didn't enjoy my golf in 2020. I played well one week [tied-2nd at the US PGA Championship], but that was about it. So this is really cool.”
In truth, Casey looked ice-cool all day. A chip-in on the par-3 4th supplied a second successive birdie, while he didn’t seem overly perturbed by dropped shots on holes six and eight. Chiefly, because he remained out in front.
A lovely birdie putt on the 11th extended that lead to five – MacIntrye was in the midst of four consecutive bogeys – and another birdie on the par-13th maintained it.
When Casey stared down a double-bogey on the par 3 15th, and perhaps a nervy finish, he drained a lengthy putt to drop just one shot. A great up-and-down on 16, and a comfortable par on 17, followed.
Apparently, Casey hadn't to that point paid any attention to the leaderboard. However, knowing where he stood as he strolled up 18, he finished with a flourish to accentuate the win.
Then, as he stood not far from the screens that celebrate the tournament’s impressive roll of honour, came the tears.
“I'm always emotional with wins, but with this one is such a prestigious event, the history which is behind you - I can see it from here with amazing winners - is basically a Who's Who in world golf,” Casey said.
“Dubai has given so much to golf, European Tour golf in general, and across the globe. And 15 wins is pretty cool. I’m just so happy.”
The presence of fans, albeit a restricted amount given the current public health guidelines, only deepened his delight.
“To come out of not enjoying my golf to now here I am rejuvenated, great sponsors, new equipment, and a couple of people standing around a golf course, I feel totally different,” Casey said. “I'm in a really good place. I'm just giving it 100 per cent.”
With a big 2021 ahead, he doesn't plan to do anything else. The win, which comes off the back of a tied-8th in the United States last week, should move Casey into the world’s top 15, not to mention into Ryder Cup contention, as well.
Not that Casey’s taking anything for granted when it comes to Whistling Straits later this year, even if European captain Padraig Harrington waited around on Sunday to offer his congrats.
“No, no, no - there is a long way to go,” said Casey, a member of the victorious team last time out, in France, in 2018. “There’s a lot of golf to be played. I was quoted this week as saying that Paris might be the greatest golfing experience I ever had. I think I can take the 'might' out: it was the greatest golfing experience I've ever had.
“I would to love to be part of [Harrington's] team. Ryder Cups are something special. There's a long way to go, though. Got a lot of golf to play and need to keep this form up.”