Casey overcomes backlash on perfect day

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The Independent Online

Paul Casey admitted to a sleepless night on the eve of the World Cup before helping Luke Donald position England a stroke off the lead after the first day of fourballs. But golf being the humbling game it is, they were outscored by their unfancied playing partners, Austria, who tied Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley's betterball of 60 for Ireland.

Paul Casey admitted to a sleepless night on the eve of the World Cup before helping Luke Donald position England a stroke off the lead after the first day of fourballs. But golf being the humbling game it is, they were outscored by their unfancied playing partners, Austria, who tied Padraig Harrington and Paul McGinley's betterball of 60 for Ireland.

Casey's ill-advised use of the verb "to hate" in the context of the Ryder Cup has spiralled far beyond his worst fears and has left the 27-year-old Englishman chastened by the experience. "I have had huge negative feedback," he said.

"There has been some nasty stuff in my email in-box. About 99.9 per cent of it has made me regret what I said. It has made people angry, which I fully understand. It's upset me. I struggled to get to sleep last night and I was quiet this morning.

"I wish I could take it back but the story has been run with. It's a horrible experience and it has been weighing on my mind. Maybe it was taken out of context but none the less I said it. I shouldn't have used that word. I don't hate Americans. I wouldn't live there if I did." But once he was on the course Casey's six birdies, along with Donald's five, left the pair at 11 under.

It was a perfect day of Iberian winter sun, no wind and a Real Sevilla course with hardly any rough. Scoring could not have been easier but it will be a different test today and on Sunday when the format reverts to foursomes.

"Today was ideal for making professional golfers look good," Harrington said, "but the key to this week will be the foursomes. Fourballs is a great way to play the game. I wish I could have a partner go first every day I have to play."

Ever since they won on their first outing together at Kiawah Island in 1997, McGinley has teed off first and Harrington has gone second. "We won then so we have never changed the routine," Harrington said.

McGinley's two holed bunker shots - at the second for birdie and at the 13th for eagle - were the highlights of the day for the Irish pair.

Austria's Markus Brier and Martin Wiegele failed to qualify in Mexico, missing out by three shots, but later got an exemption when more highly ranked players withdrew. Earlier in the week Wiegele, having lost his card after finishing 210th on the order of merit in his first season on the European Tour, failed to regain it and will return to the Challenge Tour next year. Yet his four birdies and Brier's eight gave them a day to remember.

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