Casey finally finds A+ putting stroke on Sunday at Valspar
March 12, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Paul Casey captures first PGA TOUR win since 2009 at Valspar
In the final round of the 2018 Valspar Championship, Paul Casey birdies seven of his first 13 holes, then pars in for a 65 and a one-shot win over Patrick Reed (68) and Tiger Woods (70).
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where amid great Tiger fervor, Casey won for the second time on the PGA TOUR and the first since the 2009 Houston Open, moving from 39th to eighth in the FedExCup. Here are some further thoughts on the Valspar:
1- If you want to get more out of your game, sometimes it helps to try less. Casey got into contention a lot last year only to struggle on Sundays. At the TOUR Championship, he was in the mix to win before shooting a final-round 73 to finish fifth. Eventually he realized he was grinding so hard, especially on the greens, that his perfectionism was getting in the way. He was even shutting and de-lofting the putter face.
This year, Casey has tried to open the putter face while not getting himself so worked up on the greens. (Jordan Spieth would call it free-rollin’.) It certainly worked at the Valspar. Casey took just 21 putts Sunday, the lowest single-round total of his PGA TOUR career, and was +1.660 in strokes gained: putting on the day.
“The way I strike the golf ball … I don't stress about technique, I never have,” Casey said. “I figure everything out and I pick the target and hit it. If it's a good shot, great. If it's a bad one and went slightly off line, maybe I make a small adjustment and try not to do the same with the next one. I've never done with that the putting. I've always been super critical and try to have a great stroke. I'm approaching it the same way I approach the rest of the game. It's carefree.
“If it's not, I'm not beating myself up,” he added. “I'm now striking the ball much better. My speed is infinitely better and I'm not shutting the putter face. And starting on line I can now read putts again. It's pretty simple, but for so long I just couldn't see it and trying to be perfect and trying to be better and the trying wasn't getting anywhere. Getting in my own way.”
2- Birdies get the glamour, but pars save the day.
Casey sizzled with the seven birdies and one bogey (at the difficult par-4 third hole), but after signing his card and beginning the long wait in the clubhouse, he was most delighted with his par saves at 16, 17 and 18. He missed all three greens in regulation, but chipped up and made knee-knocking par putts of 3 feet, 5 inches; 2 feet, 4 inches; and 5 feet, 2 inches.
“The reason I'm happy, the way I cleaned up,” Casey said. “I putted brilliantly, the thing that has been holding me back for a couple seasons. Really good to hole the putts at 16, 17 and 18. It's been a long time since I've holed three pressure putts like that in a row. I'm ecstatic about it.”
3- Tiger Woods (70) at least enjoyed some smaller victories. He moved to 43rd in the FedExCup and posted four straight sub-par rounds for the first time since THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2013. He also registered his 30th runner-up and 187th top-10 finish in 332 TOUR starts, and this week he heads to the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, which he’s won eight times. (For more on his comeback and his performance at the Valspar, click here.)
4- Woods wasn’t the only player enjoying a big comeback at the Valspar. Jim Furyk, the 2010 Valspar champion, was playing on a sponsor invitation and shot a final-round 66 to finish solo seventh. It was the first top-10 finish for the 17-time TOUR winner since he finished T6 at The RSM Classic in 2016. At 47, Furyk is trying to bounce back from a disappointing 2017 even as he makes preparations to captain the U.S. Ryder Cup Team in Paris in the fall.
5- Sergio Garcia’s eight birdies Sunday was a tournament best for a single round, but he was left to lament what might have been were it not for his two bogeys, everything adding up to a 65 that left him in solo fourth. Garcia also didn’t capitalize on his first three rounds (70-72-69).
“Unfortunately, I left myself too much to do today,” he said. “Played really, really nicely. I played nicely all week. Unfortunately, I didn't really get anything out of my rounds the first three days and today could have been a really, really special round. You know, I probably wasted at least three shots on the front nine with a three-putt and a couple short misses for birdies.”
1- Casey scrambled exceptionally well, getting up and down 82.14 percent of the time, third best in the field. He was also +.865 in strokes gained: putting (15th), and near the top in driving distance (301.6 yards, 17th) and proximity to the hole (35’ 10’’ for T22). His worst stat was driving accuracy (46.15 percent, T68).
2- Perhaps the winner’s nerve on the greens (just 21 putts in the final round) was helped by the fact that he hit nine of 13 fairways, by far his best of the week. Casey, 40, had hit just six, five and four fairways over the first three rounds, respectively.
3- Woods was attempting to match fellow 40-something Phil Mickelson’s victory at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship the week before. In no particular order, Woods and Mickelson have won in back-to-back weeks on TOUR 10 times, most recently at the 2013 Farmers Insurance Open (Woods) and Waste Management Phoenix Open (Mickelson).
4- Patrick Reed (68) logged a lot of driving range time at the WGC-Mexico Championship, and it paid off at the Valspar. He matched Casey at 10-under before making bogey at the last. Reed’s sixth TOUR win, and first since THE NORTHERN TRUST in 2016, will have to wait. So, too, will atonement for the 2015 Valspar, when Reed and Sean O’Hair lost a playoff to Jordan Spieth.
5- Sam Burns came into the Valspar with 122 non-member FedExCup points, needing no worse than a two-way tie for third to earn the 147 points that would equal No. 150 on last year’s list (Rick Lamb, 269 points). Alas, Burns finished T12 and remains 88 points of Special Temporary Membership. He’ll play on a sponsor invitation at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
Wheel of Fore-tune
Paul Casey's news conference after winning Valspar
Shot of the Day
Tiger Woods' monster birdie putt on No. 17 for Shot of the Day