Golf: Paul Casey and Sergio Garcia keen to show that old can still be gold in SMBC Singapore Open

Sergio Garcia of Spain (left) and Paul Casey of England speaking to the media during a press conference for the SMBC Singapore Open at Serapong Course in Sentosa on Jan 15, 2019.
Sergio Garcia of Spain (left) and Paul Casey of England speaking to the media during a press conference for the SMBC Singapore Open at Serapong Course in Sentosa on Jan 15, 2019.ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

SINGAPORE - Compared to their younger counterparts, Spaniard Sergio Garcia and Englishman Paul Casey may not drive as far or practise as much.

But make no mistake about these "oldies". They are still hungry to win on the greens.

"It's great to see the youngsters coming out and doing well, but I'm still hungry, still put in the practice, still try hard out there," said SMBC Singapore Open defending champion Garcia, who has returned to the Sentosa Golf Club's Serapong Course to defend his title from Thursday (Jan 17) to Sunday.

"Just because there are other things in my life now like family that are more important than golf does not mean I don't want to win every time I play."

A quick look at the statistics would suggest that professional golf is now a young man's game.

Among the world's top 10, only No. 1 Justin Rose (38), No. 3 Dustin Johnson (34) and No. 9 Francesco Molinari (36) are on the wrong side of 30, while Molinari and Garcia are the only two Major winners in the last two years who are above 30 .

No. 24 Casey, the highest-ranked player in the US$1 million (S$1.35 million) Singapore Open, witnessed first-hand the power of youth last week at the Sony Open in Hawaii, where 23-year-old American Cameron Champ outdrove him for two days before the 41-year-old missed the cut.

Casey said: "I've always been OK in terms of distance but he was hitting drives 30-40 yards by mine.

"Seeing guys crack it 15 yards by me used to be such an anomaly so to be 40 yards behind. It's just really difficult to compete against that, especially on big, open courses."

He is averaging 280 yards on the PGA Tour this season. Champ is averaging 320, and still has six others hitting it further than him.

But there is no doubt that the older players can still cut it at the top. A 40-year-old - Matt Kuchar - won the Sony Open last Sunday by four strokes, while 54-year-old Davis Love III finished a creditable seventh.

Garcia, a former teen sensation who made the cut for a European Tour event aged 15 years and 46 days, won his first Major at the 2017 Masters as a 37-year-old, while Casey took his first PGA Tour title in nine years - and second overall - last March at the Valspar Championship, holding off Patrick Reed and a certain Tiger Woods for a one-stroke victory.

Both went on to star for the victorious Team Europe at the Ryder Cup last September, when Garcia won three of his four matches to become the competition's all-time leading points scorer with 25.5 points.

Casey said: "I had so much fun last year and that's lit a fire again. I think I'm even more hungry in a way now, just knowing that the clock is ticking and that I've got maybe five to six years of world-class golf left."

The key, according to Garcia, is the rebalancing of time and focus.

"You realise that you have to take care of your body a bit more and that quality is always better than quantity," said Garcia, father of a 10-month-old daughter with wife Angela Akins.

"Maybe you don't practise as long, which forces you to be more focused."

Casey revealed that Love, who will also feature at the Singapore Open this week, is a guiding light for older pros.

He said: "I take inspiration from what Love has done. My opportunities to win are fewer than it used to be but when I'm putting well I can beat anyone on any day."