• Wyndham Championship

Casey keeps cool in race for FedEx Cup Play-offs

ESPN staff
August 15, 2014
Paul Casey is clinging on to the final spot in the FedEx Cup play-off standings © Getty Images

Paul Casey is the man everyone is trying to catch at the Wyndham Championship.

The Englishman headed to Greensboro, North Carolina, sitting in 125th position in the FedEx Cup standings - the final qualifying spot to make it into the first of the end-of-season play-offs, which begin with The Barclays next week.

And Casey did his chances no harm with an opening round 65 to sit two back of leader Camilo Villegas.

"I desperately want to be playing next week," Casey said. "I've always been trying to play both tours, European and PGA, and it's been very, very difficult. Although I've played some wonderful stuff this year, I've been stuck between the two.

Race for the Ryder Cup

  • Webb Simpson, the 2011 Wyndham Championship winner, hopes to make an impression on US Ryder Cup captain Tom Watson. His three captain's picks are due next month and Simpson finished 15th on the Ryder Cup points list.
  • "It's on my mind a little bit, but there are so many things I can't control with what the captain does and how other guys play," Simpson said. "I think if I have a good week this week - not just today but this week - it'll show that I really want to make the team. I want to make a good argument for myself to be a pick."
  • Simpson's quest to make the Ryder Cup team will have been aided by Tiger Woods' decision to skip the Gleneagles event.
  • Also looking to impress ahead of the Ryder Cup are Francesco Molinari and Stephen Gallacher, who carded rounds of 69 and 71 respectively. Molinari's compatriot, Mateo Manassero, is also at one-over par after a 71.
  • Click here for the full leaderboard

"There's a certain amount of pressure, but I do feel free and this isn't an all-or-nothing situation for me. I can kind of swing a little bit freer than maybe some of the other guys out there and really try to focus on winning the event."

Casey, who hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation, added: "It's a golf course I love. I haven't necessarily played well around here, but I love this event, love coming out here, the people, and it's great to get off to a good start like that.

"I'm extremely happy with five-under today."

Villegas, meanwhile, seems to have benefitted from a self-enforced break from golf as he carded a seven-under 63 to lead by one from North Carolina natives Webb Simpson and William McGirt.

Casey is joined at five-under by Scotland's Martin Laird and Americans Scott Langley, Heath Slocum and Andrew Loupe.

Villegas hasn't won since 2010 and has only two top-10 finishes in the last three years. After pulling out of the Canadian Open after one round last month, he spent the past week back in his native Colombia - leaving his clubs behind in Florida.

"I just thought it was appropriate to hop on a plane and see my mum and dad and recharge a little bit," Villegas said.

It helped him make a late charge up the Sedgefield Country Club leaderboard.

Starting on the back nine, he had three early birdies before getting even hotter late: He followed his birdie on the fourth with an eagle on the par-5 fifth, placing his second shot about three feet from the stick.

He claimed sole possession of the lead two holes later with a birdie, sinking a 15-foot putt on the par-3 seventh.

But early leads have been something of a curse at Sedgefield. Since the tournament returned to the course in 2008, the only first-round leader to win was Arjun Atwal in 2010.

And first-round leads haven't exactly been kind to Villegas lately, either. He held two of them last year, but missed the cut at the Honda Classic and finished 71st at the John Deere.

"I've also played great rounds and played some good ones after that," Villegas said. "It's a matter of just coming out here and playing good golf tomorrow. There shouldn't be any relationship between Thursday-Friday and Friday-Saturday or Saturday-Sunday."

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