PALM HARBOR, Fla. – Thousands of people descended upon Innisbrook Resort Sunday thinking that they would witness Tiger Woods win for the first time in nearly five years. As it turned out, eventual winner Paul Casey was among them.
Casey shot a final-round 65 to edge Woods and Patrick Reed by a shot at the Valspar Championship, a victory that ended an even longer drought on the PGA Tour for the Englishman that dated back to 2009. But after safely getting both hands around the trophy, Casey admitted that there was a part of him that entered the final round expecting to see Woods posing with the hardware.
“I actually thought he was going to win today before the round started. I thought it was just teed up beautifully for him,” Casey said. “I said a couple times, if I don’t win this thing I actually want Tiger to win it. I’m glad it’s this way.”
Casey teed off ahead of the leaders, meaning that he posted his score and had to watch as Woods, Patrick Reed and others tried to match his 10-under total. While Reed’s bid came closest, undone only by a 72nd-hole bogey, Casey still expected Woods to force overtime with a 38-foot birdie attempt on the final green after keeping his hopes alive with a 44-foot make on the previous hole.
“What is it, a 1 in 20 putt? Probably less. Probably way less than that,” Casey said. “I expected 50-50 after that putt on 17. It was brilliant. I dodged a bullet with him.”
Now only 77 victories behind Woods’ haul on the PGA Tour, Casey was all smiles in the aftermath of his comeback victory. But he admitted that he may still look to get some more permanent proof from the day when he finished one shot clear of the best player of his generation.
“I’m sure I’ll find a photo somewhere with my name above his,” Casey said. “How many opportunities do I have, seriously?”