What happened at the Valspar Championship?

Paul Casey’s wait for a second PGA Tour title is finally over after he posted an early 65 and then watched Patrick Reed and Tiger Woods come within very different whiskers of forcing a play-off. Casey birdied three on the bounce from the 11th to reach double figures and then held on coming home with a succession of one putts – he only had 21 putts on the day.

But the real drama was still to come as Tiger did the unthinkable, holing from 44 feet at the 17th (see below) to give himself a chance, before Reed, needing two putts to tie Casey, produced his poorest putt of the day/week/year to make the costliest of bogeys.

Until then he had been box office, opening with an eagle, and he would sign for a 68.

For Woods not much had happened and his chance looked to have gone when he three-putted for a par at the 14th after a smoked 2-iron but you should never discount Tiger and he came to the 72nd hole with a 38-footer to force extra holes. It came up a foot shy but this was a stellar week for Woods and he’ll be licking his lips for what the next few months might hold.

For Casey, now 40, it has been a lengthy road, to say the least, to get over the line in the States after a succession of brilliant Thursday and Fridays before forgettable weekends and he was visibly emotional after notching the victory.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia saved his best until Sunday as he posted eight birdies in a closing 65 for fourth place and another top 10 following his seventh in Mexico last week.

Overnight leader Corey Conners was off the leaderboard within a handful of holes and he eventually signed for a 77, his playing partner Justin Rose was also off the pace with a 72.

Talking Point

Even after his 12th place at the Honda who could honestly say that they saw this coming? It was just like old times; the swing speed was ridiculous, he was in contention from day one, there were stingers, twirls, chip-ins and the 42-year-old, whose last win came in 2013, then did this.

Needing to birdie the last two holes to tie Casey this happened at the 71st hole…

As it transpired he came up one shot shy, the approaches weren’t quite as adjacent on Sunday as the first part of the week and the putts stayed above ground but this was more than genuine progress. If anyone was questioning whether he was properly back then wonder no more, this was relatively sensational.

Previously there were loose elements to his game, as you might expect given how little golf he has played in recent years, but this week it was rock solid. Last week’s winner Phil Mickelson said he wouldn’t be surprised if Tiger didn’t ‘one up’ him by winning, he very nearly did which, when you think back to much of the past few years, is almost unbelievable.

When Tiger finally made his return in the Bahamas the most optimistic observers thought he might find a bit of form, maybe a top 10 by the middle of the year. We’re only halfway into March and he’s now second favourite for the Masters.

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Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

Handicap: 8

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