Casey a motivated leader

Paul Casey, fifth in the FedEx Cup point standings, shoots 66 to sit in a three-way tie for the lead with Luke Donald and Geoff Ogilvy after the first round of the final tournament of the PGA Tour playoffs.

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Paul Casey, fifth in the FedEx Cup point standings, shoots 66 to sit in a three-way tie for the lead with Luke Donald and Geoff Ogilvy after the first round of the final tournament of the PGA Tour playoffs.

ATLANTA — Paul Casey won't be going to the Ryder Cup. He wouldn't mind a $10 million consolation prize.

Casey was the only player among the top five in the FedEx Cup point standings to break par Thursday, running off three straight birdies around the turn at East Lake for 4-under 66 and a share of the lead with Geoff Ogilvy and Luke Donald in the Tour Championship.

It was the seventh time Casey has shot in the 60s in the nine rounds since European captain Colin Montgomerie left him off the team for the Oct. 1-3 Ryder Cup in Wales. Whether that's motivating Casey, the Englishman isn't saying.

A different kind of cup does have his attention. At stake in the finale of the four-tournament playoff is a $10 million bonus to the FedEx Cup champion. The top five in the standings — Casey got to No. 5 with his runnerup finish two weeks ago at the BMW Championship — can claim golf's biggest payoff by winning, no matter what anyone else does.

"I've got an opportunity to accomplish one of the goals which I set for myself at the beginning of the year," Casey said. "I'm just trying to put myself in that position to win and then tick off that goal, which would be a huge goal. I'm not getting wrapped up in any sort of extra motivation. … I'm motivated enough."

Donald was among Montgomerie's three Ryder Cup captain's picks and hopes to build some momentum before next weekend.

It was awkward for him when Casey was left off the team for the first time since 2002, particularly because Donald's brother is Casey's caddie. Still, he didn't see a correlation in Casey's recent form to any snub.

Even though Casey hasn't won this year, he is No. 7 in the world ranking. "You expect him to play well," Donald said.

Breaking par Thursday was hard work on a difficult course in steamy conditions. The fairways are fast and more narrow than ever. Only nine players in the 30-player field broke 70.

One of them was defending champion Phil Mickelson, who has an outside chance to win the FedEx Cup and a better chance to replace Tiger Woods at No. 1 in the world. Woods did not qualify for the Tour Championship for the first time.

Mickelson had two eagles in four holes. Not so good was making bogey after both eagles, along with consecutive bogeys after his first birdie. He shot 69.

"It's a better position than I started last year," said Mickelson, who opened with 73 and went on to a three-shot victory. "Could have been better, could have been worse."

Jim Furyk had 67. K.J. Choi was at 68. Top seed Matt Kuchar had four bogeys in his round of 72, including a tee shot into the stands on the par-3 18th.

Ryder Cup: European rookie Peter Hanson withdrew from the European Tour's Vivendi Cup in France due to an illness just more than a week before he is due to tee off in Wales. The Swede, 32, said he was struggling with a head cold, chest infection and fever.

Woods course: Construction on Tiger Woods' first American course, the Cliffs at High Carolina near Asheville, N.C., is back in full swing after developers agreed to reduce the planned impact the layout would have on area trout streams by almost half the original design. Woods said in a statement that new routing makes the course a tad shorter and some of the walks between greens and tees a little longer, but it doesn't take away from his intent to have a walkable, mountain course with breathtaking views.

Casey a motivated leader 09/23/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 23, 2010 11:01pm]

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