By Larry Fine
ATLANTA (Reuters) - It has been one long comeback for Paul Casey, who has overcome a host of problems to find himself in hot contention at the season-ending Tour Championship at East Lake Golf Club.
Casey has struggled through personal issues and injuries but after logging a five-under 65 on Thursday, the 38-year-old Englishman was sole second behind Henrik Stenson of Sweden after the first round of the final event of the FedExCup playoffs.
In 2010, three-times Ryder Cup player Casey challenged to win the $10 million bonus for capturing FedExCup playoff honors at East Lake and had a shot at winning both the U.S. and European money lists.
"Then there was divorce after that and other injuries," Casey told reporters on Thursday. "Yeah, it's been a long road.
"Even starting out this season, committing to the PGA Tour, not knowing how that was going to pan out, not being in the top 50, it's very satisfying to be here. We haven't won yet this year, but I've got time to fix that. Just."
Casey has come close this season, notching two seconds and two thirds among seven top 10s. He had no top 10s in 31 U.S. starts in the three previous years.
But Casey's bad run looked to strike again when he was forced to withdraw from this month's Deutsche Bank Championship, the second FedExCup playoff event, when his back acted up.
"I pulled out of Deutsche Bank with back issues, which I never really had before and that was just muscular, the back spasmed and wouldn't let go and I couldn't compete on the weekend," he said.
"I had a lot of treatment since then and worked on the posture, tried to loosen up that back.
"Compared to last week, which wasn't bad ball striking, this week it's night and day, it feels fantastic," added Casey, who finished tied for 23rd in last week's BMW Championship.
The three-times European Ryder Cup player, who reached a career high of third in world rankings in 2009, took advantage of his freedom of movement in Atlanta.
"Ball striking was really good today. I hit a lot of fairways. I felt very good with the game," said Casey, who was also lifted by this week's latest addition to his bag -- a brand new driver.
Asked why he had changed drivers, Casey said it has a higher launch, flatter ball flight, and adds distance but that was not the main reason.
"Because it's bright blue," he said. "That's the main reason I put it in."
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)