Paul Casey came through what he called "one of the toughest battles I've ever had" yesterday to end 20 months without a victory. The man controversially left out of Europe's Ryder Cup side by Colin Montgomerie last year sank a closing six-foot par putt to take the inaugural Volvo Golf Champions on the Montgomerie-designed Royal course here.
After an amazing 23 changes at the top of the leaderboard on the final day, Casey came to the 429-yard last level with Swede Peter Hanson. Montgomerie had tipped Hanson – "probably Europe's most improved player" – but he went from rough to sand, then missed from 10 feet and with a bogey five dropped into a tie for second with Miguel Angel Jimenez.
Casey, at ninth in the world the highest-ranked player in the field, said: "It feels fantastic – the most important thing to me is winning and that was huge. The goal is obviously the majors, but how are you going to win major championships if you can't win regular events?"
He grabbed the £238,212 first prize with a four-under-par 68 and 20-under total of 268. Third on the world rankings before he tore a rib muscle practising for the 2009 Open, Casey moves back into the top six. "I'm going in the right direction," he added.
Course-record rounds of 63 from Dane Soren Kjeldsen and England's Richard Finch flattered to deceive in the desert because by the time the leaders came to the back nine a strong wind had picked up. "We thought it was going to be benign, but we faced a course that was treacherous," Casey said.
Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, Hanson's compatriot Johan Edfors and South African James Kingston all slipped up after holding at least a share of the lead.
Casey got his nose in front with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 15th, but had his only bogey of the last two rounds on the next. Jimenez's chances were alive again when he birdied the last and Hanson bogeyed it, but Casey kept his nerve and got up and down from the rough by the green to squeeze home.