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VIRGINIA WATER, England -- Britain's Paul Casey pocketed one million pounds ($1.8 million), the richest first prize in golf, after destroying American Shaun Micheel 10 and 8 in the final of the World Match Play at Wentworth on Sunday.
Casey joined an elite group of debut winners of the championship, including Ernie Els (1994), Greg Norman (1980), Bill Rogers (1979), Isao Aoki (1978), Hale Irwin (1974) and Tom Weiskopf (1972).
His victory over Micheel gave the 29-year-old Englishman a perfect fillip ahead of the Ryder Cup at the K Club in Ireland this week..
"This means a lot to me," Casey told BBC television. "I really wanted to win this.
"I am proud of the way I stayed focused all week. Shaun did some of the tough work for me after bashing the world number one on the first day."
Consolation for 2003 U.S. PGA champion Micheel, who defeated Tiger Woods in the opening round, was a cheque for 400,000 pounds ($751,000).
Casey, winner of the China Open and Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles earlier this season, seized the early initiative in bright sunshine at Wentworth with four birdies in a five-hole burst.
He reached the green in two at the long fourth and took two putts from 20 feet to register the opening birdie of the day.
Both players birdied the sixth, Casey holing from 14 feet while his opponent rolled in a good effort from 20.
Casey continued to show that his putter was in excellent working order, sinking a 27-footer at the seventh and a 15-footer at the next as he reached the turn in 31, four under, against Micheel's 33.
The golf was less spectacular on the back nine, Casey recording three bogeys while Micheel bogeyed the 12th and double-bogeyed the 16th.
Casey went three up for the first time with a birdie four at the 17th.
Both players birdied the par-five 18th, Casey completing a round of 69 against Micheel's 71.
The 37-year-old American had a mountain to climb when Casey launched the afternoon round with another rush of five birdies, holing out from 15, 12, four, five and six feet to replicate his morning effort of 31 strokes on the outward half.
Sealed the title
Casey then sealed the title with another birdie at the 10th, clinching the most emphatic final victory in the 43-year history of the tournament, surpassing Nick Faldo's 8 and 7 triumph over Jeff Sluman in 1992.
"I have been working very hard and I didn't think I had reached this level yet," said Casey, who lives at nearby Weybridge.
"I'm not a major champion yet but I'm working hard on it and it is just wonderful to put my name on the roll of honor here, which includes a lot of great champions."
Micheel was generous in his praise of Casey, whose victory elevated him to the top of the European order of merit.
"He played great and hit a lot of really close iron shots," said the American. "It just wasn't meant to be for me.
"It was a frustrating day. I didn't play well."
Casey's win put him top of the European order of merit list.