No practice rounds at TPC Louisiana. No prior knowledge of the demanding Pete Dye layout in Avondale.
That’s no problem for Paul Casey, who moved into contention Saturday in the third round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.
The 36-year-old Englishman fired a bogey-free 64 and shares seventh place at 13-under 203, five shots off the lead held by South Korean Seung-Yul Noh (65-198).
Casey and Charley Hoffman (69-203) tee off at 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
“I’m really just winging it, (playing) completely blind,’’ said Casey, a three-time member of the European Ryder Cup team and winner of the 2009 Shell Houston Open. “Not knowing the golf course and being where I am, I’m over the moon.’’
Though posting three top-25 finishes in six PGA Tour events during this wrap-around season, Casey has struggled the past few years and currently is competing on his past champion status. His last victory came at the 2013 Irish Open, marking his 13th career international win.
But several injuries and a bitter divorce have combined to hurt his game and drop him in the world rankings from a high of No. 3 in 2009 to No. 94 this week.
He gave a portent of good things with a tie for 18th at last week’s RBC Heritage in Hilton Head, S.C.
“I’ve been through ups and downs in my career, and sometimes when you over-think this game it can kind of pull you back a little bit,’’ said Casey, who is playing in New Orleans on a sponsor’s exemption. “Sometimes you have to relax and let it go, and I think this week is a great example of that.’’
Casey’s bogey-free round Saturday featured eight birdies, including seven in his last 10 holes at Nos. 9, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15 and 18.
It was his lowest round on tour this season by three strokes and comes on the heels of 71-68 in rounds 1 and 2.
“It was a great round of golf,’’ he said. “I’ve been striking the ball well this week, and my putting has really come on.
“I hit at a lot of flags, but I got lucky as well. It was a combination of some good stuff from me and a good bounce here and there. Sometimes you need a bit of luck to shoot a low round.’’
Casey arrived in New Orleans late Wednesday after applying for his green card in Los Angeles on Tuesday, leaving him with no practice time at TPC Louisiana before his 7:20 a.m. tee time Thursday.
“The goal coming into this week was a top 10 so I can get myself into (the Wells Fargo Championship) in Charlotte,’’ said Casey, who starred at Arizona State and continues to reside in Phoenix, Ariz., on a U.S. visa. “I may have to tweak that depending on how close we are to the lead going into tomorrow. If I get off to a hot start, or at least play the golf I played today, there’s no reason why I can’t at least challenge for the lead.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win a number of events around the planet. I don’t always get it done, but I know how to win a golf tournament. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. There’s a nervous excitement. I feel very much over all the injuries and struggles that I’ve had, so tomorrow is just a real exciting day for me.’’