SAN FRANCISCO: Paul Casey came close to becoming the first Englishman in more than a century to win the PGA Championship on Sunday but at the end of the day he was happy to tip his hat to the rich talent of young champion Collin Morikawa.
Casey was right in the thick of it at the top of a crowded leaderboard over the final nine holes only for Morikawa to sprint away from the pack with a magnificent eagle at the par-four 16th.
The American went on to seal his maiden major championship at the second attempt, leaving Casey two shots behind in a share of second place and still seeking his first win after teeing off at 64 of golf's big four tournaments.
"I played phenomenal golf and there's nothing I would change. I'm very, very happy with how I played," 43-year-old Casey told reporters after shooting a four-under 66 in the final round.
"Great attitude. Stayed very calm and stayed in the present. Wasn't enough. The glorious shots Collin hit like on 16 to make eagle, you have to tip your cap.
"When he popped up on tour not that long ago, those guys who were paying attention like myself knew that this was something special, and he's proved it today."
Four months without competitive golf because of the COVID-19 pandemic had helped Casey sort out his priorities and he felt he had rediscovered his "mojo" over the four days at San Francisco's TPC Harding Park.
Back-nine birdies at the 10th, 14th and 16th kept him in the hunt but an overcooked third shot for a bogey at the 13th, as well as missed birdie putts at the 15th, 17th and 18th holes, cost him dear.
It was still Casey's best finish at a major and he certainly has not given up hope that he might one day still land one of his sport's biggest prizes.
"I was just out there kind of having a good time," he said. "I do think I'm in a sweet spot. It's taken me 43 years to get there, but yeah, pretty chilled out, know what I'm capable of, and enjoying my golf."
(Reporting by Rory Carroll, writing by Nick Mulvenney in Sydney; editing by Peter Rutherford)