Everyone was so enamored with Tiger Woods and the men bunched around him – Patrick Reed, Brandt Snedeker, Justin Rose and rookie Corey Conners that nobody bothered looking any farther down the board to start Sunday at the Valspar Championship.
That proved to be a mistake.
England’s Paul Casey shot a final-round 65 to get to 10-under, then hung on as Woods and Reed both faltered on 18 to take the win, earning himself $1.17 million and 500 Fed Ex Cup points.
Starting earlier than the leaders, Casey was even par through three holes before birdying #4, #5 and #7 to hit the turn 3-under. He turned heads by birdying 11-13 in succession to become the leader in the clubhouse.
Reed came into the round at 6-under but immediately made his intentions known with an eagle 3 on #1. He moved into a tie for the lead with a birdie on #14, but bogeyed 18 to miss out on the playoff.
Woods started the day at -8 and was at -9 after a birdie on #1 but gave it back with a bogey on #4. he proceeded to par the next 12 holes before blowing the crowd’s minds with a 43-foot birdie on No. 17 to get to 9-under. A similar range putt stopped about 2-1/2 feet short of the hole on No. 18.
“I don’t know how he does it. … He’s always had an ability to deal with the distractions and sometimes draw from it, and I actually I want him to play brilliant golf, want him to win again because I want these kids to see what we dealt with for a long, long time,” Casey said of Woods. “It would be brilliant. I want to win this week. If I don’t win this week I want Tiger to win this week. I’m afraid to say that.”
2017 Masters champion Sergio Garcia shot a 65 like Casey to wind up fourth, 2 strokes off the lead at 8-under. Canadian rookie Connors took a 9-stroke nosedive from Round 3 to Round 4, winding up with a 6-over 77 and tied for 16th. Connors bogeyed #1 and #3 on the front nine, then #10 as well before a double on #13.