'Gulf Swing' offers Casey chance to draw line in the sand

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The Independent Online

Despite the European Tour being a seemingly never-ending lesson in the maximisation of profit and the saturation of interest, there will be a discernible "back to school" feel about today's first round of the Abu Dhabi Championship.

Technically, Europe's "2007" season began in early November in China, although listening to Paul Casey yesterday it was easy to sense that, for the big names at least, a new leaf is being turned in the United Arab Emirates.

"Now, it's all about putting goals on the sheet," said the young Englishman. "And mine is not just to make up for last year and win the Order of Merit, but also to get in contention and challenge for a major. The campaign starts here."

Indeed, the first tournament on the Tour's so-called "Gulf Swing" - culminating in Dubai in two weeks' time - is as good a place as any to draw a line in the sand, especially as the prestigious field lining up against Casey includes five of his fellow Ryder Cup heroes and one of the vanquished American team.

Chris DiMarco would no doubt have felt the pressure anyway as the defending champion, but after his woeful performance at the K Club, the Floridian should have more reason than ever to restate his renowned doggedness.

For Casey, though, the aim to establish himself as the best of a European contingent headlined by Sergio Garcia, Colin Montgomerie and Padraig Harrington is impetus enough. The last named, of course, pipped Casey to the Money List title on the last day of the last tournament at Valderrama in October, an agony that obviously still hurts the 29-year-old.

Commendably, he is refusing to blame the stomach bug he picked up on the eve of that Volvo Masters, but is instead pointing to his inability to keep his game at the incredible levels he achieved during his "dream fortnight".

"At the World Match Play and the Ryder Cup, I had a different intensity from the rest of the year," said Casey. "I wasn't trying any harder or less, but in certain occasions I had something about me that allowed me to make clutch putts. I have to figure out what it was."