The leaderboard showed Paul Casey entered the final round of the Masters Tournament just six strokes off the lead, a seemingly reasonable striking distance given the propensity Augusta National Golf Club has for providing plenty of Sunday drama.
But the realist in Casey knew better. He didn’t have a shot at capturing his first green jacket.
He said as much after Saturday’s third round and re-iterated the point again following Sunday’s final round.
“I gave myself realistically very little chance,” Casey said. “When you’ve got that many world-class guys ahead of me, you can’t give Sergio (Garcia), (Justin) Rose and all these guys a six-shot lead, five-shot lead, four-shot lead.”
With that mindset, Casey simply entered Sunday’s round “playing for position.” And he more than accomplished that goal, firing 4-under 68 to finish sixth.
Posting the day’s best front nine, Casey made the turn with a 4-under 32 that easily could have been a 31. He came up an inch short on an eight-foot eagle putt on No. 2 before draining a 21-footer for birdie on No. 3 to quickly get off to a hot start.
Casey closed the stellar nine with back-to-back birdies on Nos. 8 and 9. After bogey hiccups at Nos. 11 and 14, he finished strong with two birdies over his final four holes, chipping in from the fringe on No. 18.
“I had a lot of fun and it was nice to make a couple coming down the stretch,” Casey said. “I just didn’t have the firepower all the way through the round. But it was still a great week.”
Casey clinched an automatic berth in next year’s Masters with his top-12 finish and made the top six for the third straight year. He tied for sixth in 2015 and then tied for fourth last year.
In 11 Masters appearances, Casey now has five top-10 finishes and seven top-25 showings.
“I’ve been out here long enough now and it’s nice to be in the mix,” Casey said. “I still think I can win one of these things one day, and I know I’m coming back next year to give it a go.”