Paul Casey defends Valspar Championship with one-shot victory

English golfer finishes ahead of Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak

England’s Paul Casey  celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

England’s Paul Casey celebrates on the 18th green after winning the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Golf Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

 

Paul Casey became the first player to successfully defend his Valspar Championship title when he secured a hard-fought one-stroke win over Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak in Florida on Sunday.

Overnight leader Casey eked out a one-over-par 72 in the final round, which was good enough to fend off his rivals in demanding breezy and firm conditions at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor.

After a three-putt bogey at the penultimate hole, where he missed a five-footer, the 41-year-old Englishman hit a tournament-winning shot from a fairway bunker to the heart of the final green.

With two putts he finished at eight-under 276 for his third victory on the PGA Tour.

Long-hitting American Kokrak challenged Casey and was tied for the lead playing the final hole, which he bogeyed for a 71.

Sweet-swinging South African Oosthuizen (69) made a flying start by holing a 25-yard bunker shot for eagle at the first hole, but rued a bogey at the 16th hole.

Casey said the self-belief attained in winning last year had held him in good stead.

“Last year’s win was so big,” he told NBC television. “That felt like my first victory as a professional. I’ve felt so different since then, new confidence.

“I’m getting older but I feel like I’m getting better. This is so cool.”

Casey is the third consecutive European winner on the PGA Tour, following Francesco Molinari (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and Rory McIlroy (Players Championship).

He will head to the Masters in a couple of weeks certainly part of the conversation at a tournament where he has a strong recent record, having not finished worse than 15th over the past four years.

While Casey celebrated, world number one Dustin Johnson lamented a birdie-free 74 that left him three shots behind in a tie for sixth, after he had started the day one back of Casey.

Casey played all week with an unusual caddie bib, which instead of displaying his name on the back simply said “THE CHAMP”.

They were words of his choosing, after tournament organisers asked him what he would like to do.

“Today was a struggle but all week it’s felt so cool being defending champion,” he said.

“It means I don’t need to change the caddie bib for next year either.”

Graeme McDowell carded a three-over 74 in his final round to finish the week on three over.

FINAL SCORES
(USA unless stated, par 71):

276 Paul Casey (Eng) 70 66 68 72

277 Jason Kokrak 69 71 66 71, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 72 66 69

278 Bubba Watson 69 71 70 68, Sungjae Im (Kor) 70 67 71 70

279 Dustin Johnson 69 69 67 74, Jon Rahm (Esp) 71 68 72 68, Ryan Armour 70 72 68 69

280 Denny McCarthy 68 74 69 69, Scott Stallings 69 68 70 73, Austin Cook 69 67 72 72, Luke Donald (Eng) 67 70 70 73

281 Matt Jones (Aus) 73 68 68 72, Bill Haas 72 70 69 70, Lucas Glover 72 67 72 70, Curtis Luck (Aus) 70 68 70 73

Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 70 72 68 71

282 Brian Stuard 68 72 69 73, Charley Hoffman 69 74 69 70, Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 70 69 73 70, Jim Furyk 69 71 68 74, Vaughn Taylor 74 69 71 68, Sung Kang (Kor) 71 71 72 68

283 Julian Etulain (Arg) 69 73 71 70, Zach Johnson 71 72 70 70, Nick Taylor (Can) 71 70 67 75, Russell Knox (Sco) 67 76 67 73, Kevin Kisner 67 75 72 69, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 73 69 71

284 Billy Hurley III 74 69 71 70, Joel Dahmen 66 72 76 70, Shawn Stefani 68 71 73 72, Sam Burns 69 74 67 74, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Esp) 71 71 71 71, Brandt Snedeker 70 70 73 71, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 70 71 75 68

285 Nick Watney 71 72 69 73, Wyndham Clark 71 70 72 72, Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 70 71 72 72, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 69 73 70 73, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 72 71 67 75

286 Russell Henley 69 72 71 74, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai) 71 70 71 74, Danny Willett (Eng) 69 71 74 72, Jonas Blixt (Swe) 74 69 72 71

287 Kramer Hickok 71 68 73 75, Sepp Straka (Aut) 66 76 69 76, Graeme McDowell (N Irl) 71 72 70 74, Brian Gay 73 69 69 76, Andrew Landry 72 71 76 68, Sam Saunders 71 69 73 74, Kelly Kraft 69 72 75 71, Hank Lebioda 69 73 74 71

288 Danny Lee (Nzl) 72 71 73 72, Trey Mullinax 71 72 77 68, Sergio Garcia (Esp) 71 72 72 73, Roberto Diaz (Mex) 69 72 74 73, Ryan Blaum 73 67 76 72, Harris English 75 68 67 78

289 Peter Malnati 69 74 72 74, Roger Sloan (Can) 70 72 70 77, Patton Kizzire 70 71 76 72, Brandon Harkins 73 69 74 73, Alex Cejka (Ger) 71 70 77 71

290 Peter Uihlein 72 71 73 74, Harold Varner III 69 74 75 72, Chesson Hadley 74 69 70 77

293 Chris Stroud 72 71 74 76, Roberto Castro 68 71 73 81

295 Morgan Hoffmann 73 70 77 75

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