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Casey struggles to come to terms with spectator-less golf

(Reuters) - England’s Paul Casey is hoping to overcome the strange experience of playing without spectators as he bids for a long-awaited maiden major title at the PGA Championship.

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Fans are not lining up at the fairways at Harding Park as the year’s first major championship in San Francisco is being staged behind closed doors amid the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s just strange,” the 43-year-old Casey said. “It’s gone through my mind a few times, the gravity of the event we’re playing in, you know. But you can’t get over the fact it’s just you’re missing the roars and the excitement and the screaming.

“There’s no question the golf course is producing that test for us. It’s just the other elements which are usually a big part of what we do.”

Casey, making his 64th major appearance, has still grinded through the first three rounds to move up to seven-under for the tournament - two strokes behind leader Dustin Johnson.

It represents a remarkable improvement for Casey who has missed two cuts in four post-shutdown starts.

Casey said he was much happier with his progress than when he returned to action at the Travelers Championship in June after spending nearly three months without touching his golf clubs.

“Worked on the body and the mind, but yeah, no golf for three months, not a single shot,” he added.

“I felt pretty ready to come out and play, and I thought I showed some pretty good form at Travelers, so I was ready to go. Like I said, just been a bit flat (since then).”

With rounds of 68-67-68, Casey has not been flat this week and feels more comfortable on the course with caddie John McLaren back on his bag for the first time since the shutdown.

“I’ve played really well and I think that reflects in the clean scorecards I’ve been keeping,” he added. “We’ll see what it yields, but I certainly feel I can produce the golf I’ve been producing up until now.”

Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Christian Radnedge

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