Wednesday 23 January 2019

Casey comes out of the pack to spoil Woods hopes of glory

Tiger Woods chips onto the fourth in yesterday’s Valspar Championship
where he missed out on play-off after a final round 70 to leave him nine under. Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports
Tiger Woods chips onto the fourth in yesterday’s Valspar Championship where he missed out on play-off after a final round 70 to leave him nine under. Photo credit: Jasen Vinlove/USA Today Sports

Brian Keogh

Tiger Woods roared too late as Paul Casey ended a nine-year PGA Tour drought with an emotional one-stroke win in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook.

The Englishman (40) had a career-best 21 putts in a six-under 65, getting up and down for gutsy pars on the last two holes to set the target at 10-under par.

He felt it would not be good enough and was forced to watch for over an hour as first Patrick Reed and then Woods threatened to force sudden-death.

Reed had a 35-footer up a steep tier at the 18th for victory but instead of two putting to force a playoff, his putt came back to his feet and he three-putted for bogey and a 68 to finish one behind.

He ended up tied for second with Woods, who birdied the first to get a share of the lead but made a clumsy bogey at the fourth and failed to hit the ball close all day.

He didn't come to life until he drained an outrageous, left-to-right curling bomb from 44 feet at the 17th to get within one.

A birdie at the last would have forced a playoff but left himself too far back after hitting an iron off the tee and failed to convert a 39-footer for another miracle.

"I thought he was going to hole that one on 18," said relieved Casey, who was playing under a cloud after the recent death of a close friend.

"I thought before the start of the day that Tiger was going to win."

Woods didn't end his near five-year victory drought but he was still pleased with his week and looking forward to chasing a ninth win in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill in his final warm-up for the Masters.

"It was a very good week," Woods said. "And I thought I held up really well."

He added: "I felt very comfortable, actually. Unfortunately, I didn't hit the ball close enough to make putts. Missed a short one on four and should have birdied 14. Those little mistakes will get you and they got me this week.

"I think that I've gotten a little bit better than I was a couple weeks ago at Honda, keep getting a little bit better and sharper and today wasn't quite as sharp as I would like to have had it."

Shane Lowry's hopes qualifying for next week's WGC-Dell Technologies Championship evaporated when he closed with a 72 to finish tied for 49th on two-over.

Needing solo 15th place to make the top 64 available players in the rankings before today's qualifying cut-off, he was 20th at halfway but slipped to a 73 on Saturday before hitting just four fairways in a disappointing final round.

Portrush's Graeme McDowell, who only made the cut on the mark, finished tie 40th on level par after weekend rounds of 68 and 71.

In Hero Indian Open in Delhi, England's Matt Wallace birdied the first extra hole to claim his second European Tour victory and break into the world's top 100. An Alps Tour player just two years ago, Wallace (27) closed with a 68 to match clubhouse leader Andrew "Beef" Johnston on 11-under par.

He then blasted a huge drive and a towering four-iron to 12 feet at the par-five 18th in sudden-death before two-putting for victory after Johnston lipped out for birdie from 20 feet.

Darren Clarke (49) had another disappointing weekend, closing with rounds of 83 and 79 to finish 63rd on 19-over par.

On the Staysure Tour, veteran Thaworn Wiratchant defeated Clark Dennis and Peter Fowler under floodlights in a four-hole playoff for the season-opening Sharjah Senior Golf Masters.

Headfort's Brendan McGovern was the best of the Irish, tied 18th on two-over 218 after a final round 74.

In amateur golf, Asia-Pacific beat Europe to claim the Bonallack Trophy 16.5-15.5 and the Patsy Hankins Trophy 23.5-8.5 in Qatar on Saturday.

Tramore's Robin Dawson ended up with two and a half points from four matches, losing 3 and 1 to Australia's world No 13 Min Woo Lee at number one in the singles. Lisburn's Grant got on the scoreboard with a 5 and 3 singles win over Chinese Taipei's Yu-Chiang Hou but Asia-Pacific.

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