Palm Harbor, Florida – Paul Casey entered Sunday five shots behind Canadian Casey Connor (9 under par) and four behind 79 time PGA Tour winner and crowd favorite Tiger Woods. Olympic Gold medalist Justin Rose and Brandt Snedeker were also a shot back (at 8 under par) to start the final round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead Course.
Casey, who was facing a nearly 9 year drought from the winners circle was totally brilliant with the flatstick Sunday – taking only 21 putts in round 4 (the best putting performance of his career). After firing a 6 under par 65 (tied for the lowest round all week) to post 10 under par in the clubhouse, Casey had to watch for nearly an hour and a half as Woods and Patrick Reed put up the best challenge.
Reed needed birdie to win at the last, but could only manage a mediocre approach, and when his ball ended up in an awkward spot against the fringe, he 3-putted for bogey (finishing a shot behind at -9). Tiger Woods who was in neutral all day at even par thru 16 holes, faced a 43 foot downhill birdie attempt at the par 3 seventeenth to get to within a stroke of Casey. When the ball finally took the break and curled left into the center of the cup, the crowd erupted and Woods marched to the eighteenth tee knowing a 3 would get him into a playoff with Casey. A striped long iron off the tee reached the fairway, finally the 14 time major champion was getting a taste of true Sunday contention. The mid iron approach reached the green in regulation but left Woods 39 feet for the conversion. When the putt came up short, Tiger tapped in to finish a shot back at 9 under par (tied with Reed for second), but more importantly he got a taste of being in the hunt after another week of progress.
With Bayhill next up for Woods, his Masters prep looks right on schedule. Afterwards Paul Casey was getting teary eyed, “To take this long to get my second victory on the PGA Tour it’s emotional,” Casey said. “I’ve worked so hard, I’m happy for it. I lost a friend last Saturday, I played with a heavy heart, maybe that’s the difference.”
Sergio Garcia finished two shots back after a final round 65.