Paul Casey goes for his third straight victory on the Valspar Championship, a feat troublesome sufficient that solely eight instances within the final 40 years has a participant received the identical event a minimum of thrice in a row.
It did not take lengthy for Casey to take a stab at who else was on the record.
“Tiger, Tiger, Tiger?” he stated.
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Tiger Woods owns six of these eight events. He received three in a row at Firestone twice (1999-2001 and 2005-07), together with the Memorial (1999-2001), and he received 4 in a row at Bay Hill (2000-03) and Torrey Pines (2005-08). The opposite was a World Golf Championship that was held at three programs (Harding Park in 2005, The Grove in England in 2006, Doral in 2007).
The opposite two gamers had been Stuart Appleby at Kapalua and Steve Stricker on the John Deere Basic.
It is no small process.
Now throw in a discipline that features Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, the highest two gamers on this planet, together with Patrick Reed to spherical out three gamers from the highest 10.
“I’ve by no means had a three-peat as an expert, and I really feel just like the stress will not be on me,” Casey stated. “We have Justin Thomas and guys like that taking part in this week, and the main target goes to be on them. So I really feel like I am form of in a candy spot and raring to go.”
Casey has received three in a row as an beginner, and that wasn’t straightforward both. He received the Pac-10 championship three straight instances whereas at Arizona State. The second time, he shot 60 within the remaining spherical.
The Copperhead course at Innisbrook is considered among the many greatest event programs in Florida, counting on such un-Florida traits as elevation and bending, tree-lined fairways. Sure, there’s water, however it comes into play on solely a half-dozen holes.
Casey is a premier ball-striker on the PGA Tour, which explains why he has fared so properly at Innisbrook.
“When he is on, it is actually spectacular,” Thomas stated. “The sound his ball makes when it comes off his irons … it is a quick, compact transfer. It is enjoyable to play with and it is enjoyable to observe.”
That does not imply it is simple.
When he received in 2018, Casey rallied from a five-shot deficit and nonetheless did not have victory secured till Woods didn’t make a 35-foot birdie putt on the ultimate gap. The next 12 months, he had a one-shot lead over Johnson in circumstances so powerful Johnson did not make a birdie within the remaining spherical. He received by one shot over Jason Kokrak and Louis Oosthuizen.
The Valspar Championship took one on the chin like no different PGA Tour occasion final 12 months. Your entire event construction was in place and it was 4 days away from the beginning of event week when the PGA Tour shut down golf due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m excited to be lastly again, and I’m positive everyone else is, too,” Casey stated.
Like different PGA Tour occasions, the Valspar Championship is permitting restricted spectators — 30% of accessible capability, although nobody has been capable of outline what full capability is at a golf event.
Johnson is hoping he can piece collectively all components of his recreation and contend, which he hasn’t significantly performed since he went into the ultimate spherical at Riviera two pictures out of the lead. He shot 1-over 72 and completed in a tie for eighth, six pictures behind. That was two months in the past. It additionally was his final prime 10.
5 straight tournaments out of the highest 10 is his longest drought because the remaining eight tournaments of 2019, when he was struggling along with his left knee and had surgical procedure on the finish of the season.
Somewhat little bit of all the pieces has held him again, both his placing or lengthy recreation or irons, not all on the identical time.
“I really feel prefer it’s actually shut,” Johnson stated. “I simply haven’t put all of it collectively, particularly for per week. However I really feel like I’m driving it good once more. Simply the one factor, just a bit off with the irons at Hilton Head. But it surely feels prefer it’s getting higher and it’s trending in the correct path.”
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He ought to get a robust check from Innisbrook. The event has moved this 12 months from the center of March to the final week in April, with hotter climate and no vital rain within the forecast.
“You have to drive it properly. You’ve acquired to hit your irons properly. You’ve got actually acquired to form of assume your means round right here simply because … you will get out of place, and it’s powerful to make pars,” Johnson stated. “You don’t need to shoot means below par. You simply shoot a pair below every day, and also you’re going to have an opportunity to win come Sunday.”