Paul Casey primed to defend title at Valspar Championship

English golfer shares halfway lead with Luke Donald and Dustin Johnson in hot pursuit

Paul Casey shares the halfway lead at the Valspar Championship. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty

Paul Casey shares the halfway lead at the Valspar Championship. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty

 

Paul Casey admits the Masters is already “in the crosshairs” even as he tries to make the first successful title defence of his professional career in the Valspar Championship.

Casey carded an eagle, four birdies and a solitary bogey in a second round of 66 on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort to share the halfway with American Austin Cook on six under par.

Former world number one Luke Donald, who partnered Casey to victory for England in the 2004 World Cup, is a shot off the lead with Scott Stallings and Sungjae Im, with current number one Dustin Johnson another stroke adrift alongside Joel Dahmen and Curtis Luck.

Graeme McDowell meanwhile crept inside the cut mark, after rounds of 71 and 72 left him on one over par at the halfway stage. Seamus Power’s week ended early again, however - a 70 and a 74 left him a shot further back, the Waterford man left to rue two late bogeys.

Starting on the back nine, Casey birdied the 10th, 11th and 14th to reach the turn in 32 and also birdied the first before holing from 27 feet for an eagle on the par-five fifth.

The 41-year-old Ryder Cup star dropped his only shot of the day on the ninth after finding sand off the tee and with his approach to the green, but was happy to bounce back after a missed cut in the Players Championship last week.

“I feel really good about it because last week was rubbish,” Casey told PGA Tour Live. “For whatever reason I struggled a little bit round Sawgrass and that frustrated me, annoyed me, (ahead of) coming in here trying to defend my title which I’d love to do because I’ve never defended a professional title.

Luke Donald is a shot off the lead in Florida. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty
Luke Donald is a shot off the lead in Florida. Photograph: Matt Sullivan/Getty

“I’ve worked very, very hard on the game and it’s slowed things down, quietened the transition at the top of the swing, and I like slopey greens.

These are very, very difficult greens but that’s the way I like them and it’s why I play well at places like Augusta as well.“

Casey has finished no worse than 15th in his last four appearances at Augusta National and believes the Masters represents his best chance of winning a maiden major championship.

“We talk about the PGA Tour and FedEx Cup but you know my feelings, there’s one tournament I write down at the top of the list every year when I start writing my goals for the year and that’s the Masters,” Casey told Sky Sports.

“It’s the one I believe I can win, I’ve got a great opportunity to. I’ve played wonderful rounds of golf round there before... and I need some luck, guys like Rory (McIlroy) and Dustin, these guys are so strong on their games, who can beat them?

“But it’s a great chance I have round that venue and I love it to death. It’s been in the crosshairs for quite a while and we’ve been doing work this week for the second week in April.”

Donald, whose victory in this event in 2012 saw him regain the world number one ranking from McIlroy, held the outright lead after holing a bunker shot on the fifth, his 14th, for a fifth birdie of the day.

However, the world number 919, who is playing only his second event of 2019 after a back injury, bogeyed two of his last four holes to add a 70 to his opening 67.

Collated second round scores & totals in the USPGA Tour Valspar Championship (USA unless stated, par 71):

136 Austin Cook (USA) 69 67, Paul Casey (Eng) 70 66

137 Scott Stallings (USA) 69 68, Luke Donald (Eng) 67 70, Sungjae Im (Kor) 70 67

138 Joel Dahmen (USA) 66 72, Dustin Johnson (USA) 69 69, Curtis Luck (Aus) 70 68

139 Rory Sabbatini (Svk) 70 69, Shawn Stefani (USA) 68 71, Kramer Hickok (USA) 71 68, Jon Rahm (Spa) 71 68, Lucas Glover (USA) 72 67, Roberto Castro (USA) 68 71

140 Brian Stuard (USA) 68 72, Jason Kokrak (USA) 69 71, Jim Furyk (USA) 69 71, Ryan Blaum (USA) 73 67, Sam Saunders (USA) 71 69, Bubba Watson (USA) 69 71, Danny Willett (Eng) 69 71, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 70 70

141 Satoshi Kodaira (Jpn) 70 71, Matt Jones (Aus) 73 68, Roberto Diaz (Mex) 69 72, Kelly Kraft (USA) 69 72, Alex Cejka (Ger) 71 70, Wyndham Clark (USA) 71 70, Russell Henley (USA) 69 72, Patton Kizzire (USA) 70 71, Cheng-Tsung Pan (Tai) 71 70, Nick Taylor (Can) 71 70, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 70 71

142 Sepp Straka (Aut) 66 76, Roger Sloan (Can) 70 72, Sung Kang (Kor) 71 71, Brian Gay (USA) 73 69, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 70 72, Julian Etulain (Arg) 69 73, Denny McCarthy (USA) 68 74, Hank Lebioda (USA) 69 73, Bill Haas (USA) 72 70, Joaquin Niemann (Chi) 69 73, Ryan Armour (USA) 70 72, Mackenzie Hughes (Can) 70 72, Kevin Kisner (USA) 67 75, Rafael Cabrera-Bello (Spa) 71 71, Brandon Harkins (USA) 73 69

143 Nick Watney (USA) 71 72, Charley Hoffman (USA) 69 74, Vaughn Taylor (USA) 74 69, Harold Varner III (USA) 69 74, Andrew Landry (USA) 72 71, Danny Lee (Nzl) 72 71, Peter Uihlein (USA) 72 71, Henrik Stenson (Swe) 70 73, Peter Malnati (USA) 69 74, Chris Stroud (USA) 72 71, Zach Johnson (USA) 71 72, Graeme McDowell (NIrl) 71 72, Chesson Hadley (USA) 74 69, Harris English (USA) 75 68, Jonas Blixt (Swe) 74 69, Billy Hurley III (USA) 74 69, Trey Mullinax (USA) 71 72, Sam Burns (USA) 69 74, Sergio Garcia (Spa) 71 72, Morgan Hoffmann (USA) 73 70, Russell Knox (Sco) 67 76, Dylan Frittelli (Rsa) 72 71

144 Bud Cauley (USA) 70 74, Adam Schenk (USA) 75 69, Benjamin Silverman (Can) 71 73, Dylan Meyer (USA) 73 71, Adam Hadwin (Can) 73 71, Seamus Power (Irl) 74 70, Richy Werenski (USA) 74 70, Ollie Schniederjans (USA) 70 74, Kevin Tway (USA) 74 70, Steve Stricker (USA) 73 71, Sam Ryder (USA) 74 70, Stewart Cink (USA) 70 74, Chase Wright (USA) 74 70, Michael Thompson (USA) 74 70, Tyler Duncan (USA) 78 66, Ryan Moore (USA) 72 72

145 Jason Day (Aus) 74 71, Charl Schwartzel (Rsa) 71 74, John Senden (Aus) 74 71, Gary Woodland (USA) 74 71, Chez Reavie (USA) 72 73, Robert Streb (USA) 72 73, Keegan Bradley (USA) 68 77, D.A. Points (USA) 73 72, Kenny Perry (USA) 73 72, Kyung Ju Choi (Kor) 72 73

146 JT Poston (USA) 73 73, Jason Dufner (USA) 71 75, Ryan Vermeer (USA) 74 72, Branden Grace (Rsa) 71 75, Cody Gribble (USA) 71 75, Brian Harman (USA) 74 72, Alex Prugh (USA) 74 72, Freddie Jacobson (Swe) 73 73, Rod Pampling (Aus) 73 73, Michael Kim (USA) 70 76, Akshay Bhatia (USA) 74 72, Cameron Tringale (USA) 72 74

147 Brian Davis (Eng) 76 71, Chris Kirk (USA) 76 71, Kyle Jones (USA) 74 73, Kevin Streelman (USA) 75 72, Hunter Mahan (USA) 72 75, Grayson Murray (USA) 72 75, Seth Reeves (USA) 75 72, Jim Herman (USA) 73 74

148 Scott Brown (USA) 76 72, Hudson Swafford (USA) 72 76, Beau Hossler (USA) 75 73, Carlos Oritz (Mex) 73 75, Patrick Rodgers (USA) 73 75, Cameron Davis (Aus) 75 73, Webb Simpson (USA) 73 75, Tom Hoge (USA) 73 75

149 Brendan Steele (USA) 76 73, Stephan Jaeger (Ger) 73 76, Joey Garber (USA) 74 75, Brandon Hagy (USA) 73 76, Adam Svensson (Can) 76 73

150 Max Homa (USA) 78 72, Tyrrell Hatton (Eng) 69 81

151 Ted Potter, Jr. (USA) 76 75, Sang-moon Bae (Kor) 74 77, Jose de Jesus Rodriguez (Mex) 76 75

152 David Hearn (Can) 75 77, Martin Trainer (USA) 77 75, Sebastian Munoz (Col) 79 73, Patrick Reed (USA) 77 75

153 Scott Langley (USA) 74 79, Brice Garnett (USA) 78 75

154 Rod Perry (USA) 78 76, Jim Knous (USA) 80 74

156 Austin Connelly (Can) 79 77

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