Paul Casey lifted his second PGA Tour trophy, and first in nine years, at the Valspar Championship, defeating a resurgent Tiger Woods by a single shot at Innisbrook.
It was a day to remember for English golf. It’s certainly not often there’s been two English winners lift trophies on both the European and PGA Tour’s on the same day, but Sunday brought drama and a stellar display of golf from compatriots Matt Wallace and Paul Casey at both the Hero Indian Open and the Valspar Championship.
For Casey, who has openly admitted his struggle to finish strongly on a Sunday, it was his ability to post a 6-under par 65 in the final round which ended a 3,262 days wait for a trophy.
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Playing nine groups in front of the leaders, Casey got in early to post the clubhouse lead at 10-under-par with a joint lowest round of the week, and had to wait an agonising 80 minutes to find out if anyone would catch him.
While the leading group of Conners and Justin Rose fell away from contention, Patrick Reed gave himself the best chance. Heading down the last, Reed needed a par to force the play-off, but a misjudged birdie putt saw his ball roll back to his feet and a resulting chip left a tap-in for bogey.
After Reed, there was just one solitary, but familiar name that could possibly challenge Casey’s title hopes. Tiger Woods. Not many would bet against Woods, even though he’s only just back from a fourth back surgery, to birdie his final two holes to match Casey’s target, and he gave himself a chance by holing a 44 foot putt on 17 to get within one.
An iron off the tee on the par-four 18th left Woods with a longer iron in to the green, but he couldn’t hole his 30+ footer for birdie, leaving him one adrift. Still, it was incredible to watch him in contention to win a tournament on the 72nd hole once again, and it turns out Casey agreed – taking to social media to jovially point out he beat the Big Cat for probably the first time in his entire career.
“I’m sure he was disappointed he didn’t get the victory,” Casey said. “I actually thought he was going to win today before the round started. I thought it was just teed up beautifully for him.
“I said a couple times if I don’t win this thing, I actually want Tiger to win it. I’m glad it’s this way.”
Of his own victory, Casey admitted the win was one of the more satisfying of his career. Until now, he had 13 European Tour victories and just a solitary win on the PGA Tour, and it felt a long time coming.
“[It’s] 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 yesterday, 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. …
“Houston was obviously great fun. My eyes are much more open right now. I’ve taken a lot in. Your last win is always your best one because it’s the freshest.”
As for Tiger, he’d missed being in contention as much as we’d missed it, and took to twitter after his round to say he feels he’s getting better. So far in the five tournaments he’s played in his comeback, Woods has finished T9-T23-MC-T12-T2. He’s definitely trending in the right direction, and he heads to Bay Hill next week for the Arnold Palmer Invitational – an event he’s won eight times in his career.
“I keep getting just a little bit better and a little bit sharper,” Woods said after finishing at 9 under. “Today 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.”
As for Bay Hill?
“It’s going to be good for me to get back,” Woods said. “I’ve had some great memories there.”