Casey emerges from the pack to beat Woods to second PGA Tour triumph
Paul Casey was playing nine groups ahead of Sunday’s final twosome at the Valspar Championship but the Englishman put together a sterling round to claim a second PGA Tour title at Innisbrook Resort and Golf Club in Florida.
Casey posted a six-under round of 65 to leave him in the clubhouse at ten-under for the tournament and then had to wait around 80 minutes for the rest of the players to complete their final round. It was not an experience the 40-year-old enjoyed – “Awful. Rubbish. Can’t stand it,” were his comments afterwards – but another, longer wait was ended when he lifted the trophy as it was a full 3,262 days since he won his only previous PGA Tour event, the 2009 Houston Open.
He has triumphed five times globally since that Houston Open – four of them on the European Tour – but this week will certainly hold a special place in his heart.
“Probably not the most significant win of my career, but it's certainly one of the most satisfying ones,” Casey said. “The quality of golf that I played. I know I made some errors on the round [on Saturday]. I hit it in the water twice but as a whole I would say it's one of the cleanest weeks I've ever had from kind of a golf course management point of view."
Tiger on the comeback trail
Casey’s closest rivals ended up being three-time Champion Golfer of the Year Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed, both finishing one shot back. Reed headed down 18 needing a birdie to win outright but instead took three from 45-feet to miss out.
Woods was right in contention heading into the final day – just a stroke behind overnight leader Corey Connors – but his one-under round of 70 wasn’t quite enough. A superb 43-foot putt at the 17th moved him within one of Casey but he couldn’t repeat those heroics with a 39-footer on the last to force a play-off. But runner-up was his best finish since returning to action following a year’s absence due to a fourth back surgery and Woods is feeling largely optimistic.
“I keep getting just a little bit better and a little bit sharper,” Woods said. “On Sunday I wasn't quite as sharp as I would've liked to have had it, but I had a good shot at winning the golf tournament.
“A couple of putts here and there and it could've been a different story.”
Woods will now take the next step in his comeback by playing for a second consecutive week when he appears at the upcoming Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Old guard doing the business
With 47-year-old Phil Mickelson ending his winless drought a week ago and 40-year-old Casey pipping Woods (42) to glory this time out – 40 appears to be the new 25 as the ‘old guard’ make some noise this season. Masters Champion, Sergio Garcia (38), posted a final-round 65 to come fourth at the Valspar Championship – his best PGA Tour finish since winning the Masters 12 months ago – and claims it could have been even better.
“It could have been a really, really special round,” said Garcia. “I probably wasted at least three shots on the front nine with a three-putt and a couple short misses for birdies.”
Wallace finishes off Beef in India
On the European Tour, Matt Wallace birdied the first play-off hole to beat crowd favourite Andrew ‘Beef’ Johnston to the Indian Open title in New Delhi. Johnston had posted a six-under final round of 66 to tie overnight leader Wallace on 11-under but his putt when playing 18 for the second time on Sunday lipped out and Wallace sealed a second European Tour win.
Home favourite Shubhankar Sharma, 21, faded on the final day to finish seven strokes adrift after being joint leader heading into Sunday but Wallace was ecstatic to bounce back from a slow start to the week.
“After being three-over after eight holes on the opening day I played some of the best golf of my life,” said the world No.152. "To do it in that style at the end there capped it off. Beef really had a great final round because I was playing fantastically and thought I might have been a few more clear.”