With all eyes riveted on Tigers Woods—captivated by a comeback that had the 14-time major champion poised for victory in only his fourth event—it was instead Englishman Paul Casey who won the Valspar Championship. Casey charged on Sunday with a closing 65 for a 10-under total of 274. Woods and Patrick Reed finished second one stroke off the pace.
“I have won a few times in Europe,” Casey told NBC Sports’ Steve Sands, “but to take this long to get my second victory on the PGA Tour is emotional. I have worked so hard, and I’m so happy for it.”
Casey’s previous PGA Tour victory was at the 2009 Houston Open. The 40-year-old veteran is an accomplished worldwide player whose resume includes 13 European Tour titles and three appearances in the Ryder Cup. He has made 27 consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour. The win vaults Casey to No. 12 in the world rankings.
Casey started five shots behind 54-hole leader Corey Connors and nine groups ahead of the final twosome. That meant he had a long and extremely nerve-racking wait in the clubhouse as he watched Reed (68) and Woods (70) come to the final hole with a chance to win or tie.
“Awful,” Casey said about watching his challengers. “Rubbish. Can’t stand it.”
Finally it was over and Casey marveled at his Sunday putting. He only needed 21 strokes on the tricky Copperhead greens.
“That is the difference. That is what I needed to do,” Casey said. “The ball-striking has always been a strong part of my game. Very satisfying and very rewarding.”
Mr. Comeback also assessed his Sunday performance and took stock of his overall progress.
“I felt very comfortable actually,” Tiger said. “I didn’t feel that sharp with my iron game. I played very conservatively into the greens because I wasn’t as sharp as I was yesterday.
“I think that I’ve gotten a little bit better than where I was a couple of weeks ago at Honda. I keep getting a little bit better and a little bit sharper. Today wasn’t quite as sharp as I would have liked to have had it. But I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament. Couple of putts here and there it could have been a different story.”
Next up is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, where Tiger has won eight times. He has turned the golf world upside down, going from “he’ll never win again” to victory No. 80 being a near certainty, expected at any moment.
“[I] haven’t played Arnold’s tournament in a couple of years now,” he said. “Unfortunately, I didn’t play when he was passing. So it is going to be good for me to go back. I’ve had some great memories there. Not only have I won there a few times, but Orlando—I used to live there and my kids were born there. So it is a great town and a great atmosphere.”
Golf Channel Communications said in an email that final-round coverage of the Valspar Championship was the highest-rated non-major golf broadcast in nearly five years. Those kind of ratings should continue as Tiger Woods shakes off more dirt in his return from the golfing dead. Whatever he does next, lots of people will surely be watching.
Paul Casey’s Clubs
(As reported by PGATOUR.COM)
Paul Casey has a mixed bag that includes equipment by TaylorMade, Mizuno and Titleist. Here’s a look at his winning setup for the Valspar Championship.
Driver: TaylorMade M4 (10.5 degrees) with Mitsubishi Chemical Diamana White D+ 70TX shaft
3-Wood: 2017 TaylorMade M1 (15 degrees) with Mitsubishi Chemical Diamana White D+ 80TX shaft
Hybrid: TaylorMade M3 (21 degrees) with Mitsubishi Chemical Tensei CK White 100HY TX shaft
Irons: Mizuno MP-25 (4-iron) with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 TX shaft; Mizuno MP-5 (5-PW) with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Tour 120 TX shafts
Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM6 (52-08K, 56-10S and 60-10K degrees) with Nippon N.S. Pro Modus3 Wedge 120 X shafts
Putter: Scotty Cameron 009
Ball: Titleist Pro V1