Paul Casey came within one stroke of the PGA Tour scoring record for nine holes when he stormed home in 27 shots to vault into an early share of the lead in the Byron Nelson Championship second round in Irving, Texas on Friday.
Casey was in danger of missing the cut after a mediocre front nine, but he turned on the afterburners at the turn and picked up eight strokes on the inward half, thanks to an eagle and six birdies at the TPC Four Seasons Resort.
“I’m loving my golf right now,” Englishman Casey told Golf Channel after shooting a seven-under-par 63 for a six-under total of 134.
Only American Corey Pavin, who shot an eight-under 26 on the front nine at Brown Deer Park during the 2006 U.S. Bank Championship in Milwaukee, has posted a better nine-hole score on the PGA Tour.
Casey’s 27 matches the tour record for a back nine, emulating Nick Watney (2011 AT&T National), Brandt Snedeker (2007 Buick Invitational), Billy Mayfair (2001 Buick Open), Andy North (1975 B.C. Open) and Mike Souchak (1955 Texas Open).
The long-hitting Englishman shared the early lead at the TPC Four Seasons Resort with German Martin Kaymer (67), Canadians Mike Weir (66) and Graham DeLaet (66) and American Morgan Hoffman (66) with half the field back in the clubhouse.
Casey was ranked as high as third in the world in 2009, before injuries and the turmoil of a divorce sent him plummeting out of the top 150.
But the 36-year-old from Cheltenham has worked his way back towards the top echelon in the past year and on Friday it all came together.
He sank a couple of long putts, notably a 30-footer for eagle at the par-five 16th, but most of his birdies were the results of precise approach shots.
“The game is in really good shape,” he said. “It doesn’t guarantee good numbers but I’m enjoying playing golf and relishing the challenge every week.
“I’m hitting the ball a long way. I used to hit it a long way and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve done that. I’ve really struggled.”
Kaymer, meanwhile, showed no signs of a victory hangover following his Players Championship win on Sunday, though he did reveal that he did not sleep well overnight.
“Today there’s not much wind and especially in the morning we had lovely greens, and I could take advantage of a couple of long putts here and there,” Kaymer said.
“I played very solid and didn’t make many mistakes. I like to play brave and if you hit a bad shot here and there, it’s OK.”