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By : BGA Proshop
Paul Casey goes back to back at the Valspar Championship and becomes the first man in the event’s 19-year history to repeat as champion.
This was Casey 17th career win worldwide although you might not have notice.
“I had a lot of confidence. My victory here last year put me back into a frame of mind, a comfort that I felt many years ago during my career, back in, pick a year, when I was winning consistently in Europe,” Casey said. “People forget, I'm not a prolific winner but I've won 17 times around the world. It's not bad. I would like it to be more, obviously. I know how to win, plain and simple. I think I had forgotten, and last year's victory kind of maybe kind of broke the seal, for lack of a better term.
This was not an easy win for Casey and I guess no wins are on the PGA Tour now but the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort bared it teeth on the final round. The first player it took out was World Number 1 Dustin Johnson. He was in the final group on Sunday and only one shot back from Casey but struggled to make a single birdie. Two early bogeys on 3 and 4 derailed his round and he never got back into contention. Johnson closed with a 3 over 74 and it was his first round outside the 60s since the opening round of the Genesis Open in February.
“I still have a lot of confidence in the game … but yeah, tough day, tough conditions, and I wasn’t spot on,” Johnson said. It had been nearly two years since he’d played a round on the PGA TOUR without making a birdie.
As Johnson fell out of contention both Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak entered the picture. In the end it was a battle for survival as the course got more challenging in the afternoon.
Oosthuizen was tied for the lead heading into the 16th but a costly bogey slipped him one back from the lead.
“I hit four good tee shots on 16 and I bogeyed it all four days,” Oosthuizen said. “I would love to come back next year and try to make a par on that hole.”
Kokrak who was playing behind Oosthuizen, was seeking his first victory in his 197th PGA TOUR started the day strong with two birdies on the first 2 holes. He then gave them back on the 3rd, 7th and 8th but never gave up. He birdied 11th and 13th to give him a share of the lead but a poor 3rd putt on the 18th left him 9 feet from the hole. Trying to save pair and the lead his par putt never touched the hole and dropped him one back from the lead.
“Just a little bit of a tough read and I didn’t hit it as firm as I needed to,” said Kokrak, who collected his third top-10 finish at Valspar. “All in all, a good week and another stepping stone toward hopefully that first win.”
Casey who was watching this all unfold in the group behind Kokrak wasn’t out of the clear himself. After driving the ball into the fairway bunker on the 18th he knew he had to make par to win the tournament. With 130 yards to the pin Casey knocked it to 23 feet short of the hole and confidently 2 putted for a one stroke victory.
After the round Casey said “Today was a very different attitude to maybe I had had the last three, four years, and an attitude that I had, and a comfort and a relaxed approach, confidence in my game. I still felt Dustin was the favorite. But it didn't mean I didn't think I could beat him.”