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Brutal Oakmont brings out the best in Casey

OAKMONT, Pennsylvania, June 15 (Reuters) Britain's Paul Casey shot one of the best rounds of his career in gruelling conditions to charge into contention at the US Open today.

The 29-year-old, despite not feeling at his best on the practice range, fired a four-under-par 66 to surge within five strokes of the early lead in the second round at Oakmont Country Club.

''That round ranks as one my finest ever,'' a beaming Casey told reporters after rattling up five birdies and a lone bogey on the par-four 18th.

''If I had kept the bogey off the card, without a doubt it would have been the best.

''This is possibly the toughest golf course I have ever played and I feel very, very lucky to have shot 66 on it.'' Conditions were brutal on the second day at a sun-baked Oakmont where the hilly, par-70 layout with its notoriously difficult greens ran faster and firmer in swirling breezes.

Englishman Casey, an eight-times winner on the European Tour, conceded he was a little lucky to return his best score in five U.S. Open appearances.

''I got a couple of fortunate breaks but the rest of it was good ball-striking,'' he said, after dropping his only shot at the 18th where he lipped out from six feet.

''I spent a lot of time on the range yesterday, which is rare for me. I left the range not particularly happy with the swing but it just clicked this morning, so I'm ecstatic.'' Casey, whose best major finish was a tie for sixth on his Masters debut in 2004, feels he has underperformed in the big events.

''I'd love to win a major but I think I've got in my way in the past and I probably got in my own way yesterday,'' he said, referring to his opening 77.

''I prepared thoroughly and maybe I put too much pressure on myself but I'm off and running now so I can enjoy the last three days.'' Reuters AKD VP0105

Story first published: Saturday, June 16, 2007, 1:35 [IST]
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