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Page last updated at 11:47 GMT, Thursday, 18 June 2009 12:47 UK

Casey set for US Open challenge

US OPEN, Bethpage Black
Date: 18-21 June (first tee off at 1200 BST on Thursday)
Coverage: Live on BBC Radio 5 Live Sports Extra (Saturday 2100 BST), live on BBC Radio 5 Live (Sun 2100 BST). Live text commentary on BBC Sport website and regular updates on BBC Radio 5 Live. Live on Sky Sports.
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Englishman Paul Casey is the world number three
Casey goes into the second major of the year as the world number three

Paul Casey will spearhead the British challenge when the US Open begins on Thursday, as defending champion Tiger Woods aims for a 15th major title.

World number three Casey would be the first Englishman to win the title since Tony Jacklin in Hazeltine in 1970.

"It would be fairly significant," said Casey ahead of the start of golf's second major of the year at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, New York.

Heavy rain is forecast across the four days on an already damp course.

After showers on 30 of the past 45 days, Bethpage will play to its full 7,426 yards, the second-longest layout in US Open history.

"We can certainly play in the rain," said Jim Hyler, US Golf Association (USGA) vice president. "The concern is the golf course and how much water it can take and still be able to play.

I'm putting everything I have into this week, because I don't anticipate being able to play for a little while

Phil Mickelson

"The area of most concern is the 18th fairway. It's a swamp. It doesn't drain very well. It's very, very wet."

Reigning Masters champion and 2007 US Open winner, Angel Cabrera, said: "The course is playing very long, very hard. The balls are sticking with mud and I think that's really going to affect the outcome."

The first players are scheduled to go out at 1200 BST, with Woods teeing off at 1306 and Casey starting from the 10th hole at 1255.

Casey said he was determined to enjoy success at the US Open, labelling the tournament one of his favourites in the golfing calendar.

"The Open Championship is obviously the one that's closest to my heart because it's my home major, my home championship.

"I think the US Open, the only reason it would be second is because the Open would be my home championship. It's the only reason I can give you.

Tiger Woods
Woods is the world number one and defending US Open champion

"I think the Masters has always been the one which I felt I had the best opportunity to win. This would be the one that maybe I've struggled at the most.

"So as a personal sort of victory, I think it would be almost seen as a greater achievement because I haven't played particularly well at the Open Championship, either.

"And to do something that hasn't been achieved in 39 years would be massive. So I would love to try and achieve that."

As well as Casey and Justin Rose, Englishmen Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Ross Fisher and Oliver Wilson are taking part.

Irishman Padraig Harrington and Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy are also in the 155-strong field and the pair are two golfers in very different form.

McIlroy is currently enjoying a fine season on the European Tour, having broken into the world's top 20 as well as claiming a maiden victory at the Dubai Desert Classic.

I have to be patient and just do the right things over and over and let it come back itself

Padraig Harrington

In contrast, Open and US PGA champion Harrington is struggling with his form but is determined not to put himself under pressure at Bethpage Black.

"In some ways I would say I'm obviously not playing my very best golf at the moment," he said.

"I have to be patient and just do the right things over and over and let it come back itself. There's no forcing it at this point in time."

But Woods, who will defend his title playing with Harrington and Cabrera for the first two rounds, said patience was the key element for Harrington, who has worked on remodelling his swing.

"Sometimes you have to take a step or two back before you can make a giant leap forward," he said.


"And that's the hard part, sticking through those periods. And even though you're making those changes, finding a way to post a number or shoot a score and win a golf tournament, that becomes a lot more difficult."

Woods triumphed last year despite a knee injury that later required surgery.

The world number one is trying to match Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones and Willie Anderson as the only four-time US Open champions and move closer to his ultimate goal, the all-time record 18 majors won by Nicklaus.

And Harrington sees the American as favourite ahead of Thursday's opening round.

"You would think he is the favourite. It would be very foolish for any of the other 155 players to start worrying about somebody else."

Woods himself goes into the tournament having won the Memorial tournament in Ohio two weeks ago.

He says it has given him the confidence he needs to begin his bid for a 15th major success.

"It's always nice to play well going into a major championship, no doubt," said the American.

"To get a win always adds to the confidence, and no matter how you win, if you can win this way, ball-striking, hitting it that well, especially going into a US Open, it always makes you feel pretty good."

There will be plenty of support for world number two Phil Mickelson, whose wife Amy is awaiting surgery for breast cancer.

"I'm putting everything I have into this week, because I don't anticipate being able to play for a little while," said Mickelson.

"And the fact that my normal support system, Amy and the kids and so forth, aren't going to make the trip this week; I'm kind of hoping to have that or feel the support to help me through the week."

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see also
Major champions lead US Open draw
12 Jun 09 |  Golf
Woods offers support to Mickelson
16 Jun 09 |  Golf
McIlroy still on learning curve
17 Jun 09 |  Golf
Wilson eager for US Open to begin
16 Jun 09 |  Golf
Woods storms to Memorial success
07 Jun 09 |  Golf
Mickelson to compete in US Open
02 Jun 09 |  Golf
Cancer fight for Mickelson's wife
20 May 09 |  Golf
Woods plays down Mickelson 'feud'
16 Aug 06 |  Golf
Harrington to donate USPGA cheque
15 Aug 06 |  Golf
Clarke left to mourn wife's death
13 Aug 06 |  Golf
Woods pays tribute to late father
03 May 06 |  Golf

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