Valspar Championship

Valspar Championship

Valspar Championship
Palm Harbor, Florida
Winner: Paul Casey

It was Paul Casey’s variation on one of golf ’s most cherished themes. The saying goes: “It’s not how, it’s how much.” Said Casey, on winning his second straight Valspar Championship, but not gracefully: “It feels very different,” he said, “but not any less cool.” Never mind the hiccups, he was saying. The win’s the thing. And the victory made him the first back-to-back winner in the 19 years of the tournament. For comparison purposes, Casey would note that in 2018, he came from five strokes behind and won with a closing 65, and this time he survived with a one-over 72.

Shooting Innisbrook’s tough par-71 Copperhead Course in 70-66-68-72–276, eight under, Casey became the first to win there with an over-par final round. He won by one over two unexpected challengers, Jason Kokrak and Louis Oosthuizen, playing ahead of him. “That golf course is so difficult that it’s damn near impossible to have a clean round,” Casey said. “I made mistakes. But then so did everyone else. I got it done, and I couldn’t be happier.” It looked like an easier finish for a while. But at the par-three 17th, Casey put his tee shot 35 feet below the hole, and was five feet short with first putt, then missed the next and bogeyed. That dropped him back into a tie with Oosthuizen and Kokrak. Casey then hammered an inspired par out of the par-four 18th. He’d bunkered his tee shot, then hit a 130-yard second into the wind to an elevated green. He put it hole-high, 23 feet to the right. (“Pretty damn good,” he was to say.) He just missed his birdie, and tapped in for his par and the win.

Kokrak and Oosthuizen each had a share of the lead coming in, but both bogeyed, two-putting from eight feet. Oosthuizen missed the green at the 16th — he hit only six in the round — and shot 69. “I hit four good tee shots on 16,” he said, “and I bogeyed it all four days.” Kokrak missed the fairway at the 18th and shot 71. “So again,” he said, still hunting that first win, “another good week and another stepping stone.”

The Valspar was set to end as a shootout between Casey and playing partner Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world, who was going for his second win in three starts. Casey had taken the lead in the second round and entered the fourth leading Johnson by one. Then Johnson had a strange round — three bogeys, but he went without a birdie in a round for the first time in 31 tournaments worldwide. He shot 74 and tied for sixth. Said Johnson: “I didn’t feel like I played [badly].” As for Casey, his battle was with Innisbrook. “Can I rise to that test and deliver?” he said.

He birdied the first and fifth, bogeyed 3, 6 and 7. It was a standoff coming in — birdies at 11 and 14, bogeys at 13 and 17, for the one-over 72. He’d answered his own question.


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