Valspar Championship: Casey has eyes on unique threepeat

The Englishman has won the last two editions of the Florida event and will bid to land a hat-trick of triumphs this week.

Paul Casey has racked up no less than 15 wins on the European Tour since ticking off the first with a one-shot victory in the Gleneagles Scottish PGA Championship in 2001.

But despite spending large chunks of his career in America, he's only put his name on one trophy Stateside since landing the 2009 Shell Houston Open.

The good news with that rather bleak stat is that his name appears on it twice.

And despite the slim pickings Stateside, the Englishman has the chance to join an extremely select list when he bids for glory in it again this week.

The tournament in question is the Valspar Championship at the Copperhead Course in Florida.

Casey scored a one-shot win in the 2018 event when firing 10-under. And 12 months later he made a successful defence, again by a one-shot margin, with 8-under.

So what happened last year? Well, there wasn't one to contest. The 2020 Valspar was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic; therefore Casey remains the defending champion

It means he could become just the 10th different player since World War II to win the same PGA Tour event three times running. Okay, there was a year off in his case but unless a pedantic engraver scratches in what happened in 2020, the trophy will show Casey, Casey, Casey if he gets it done again this time.

He'd be keeping some very elite company…

Players to have won same event 3+ times running

Gene Littler, Tournament of Champions: 1955-1957

Billy Casper, Portland Open: 1959-1961

Arnold Palmer, Texas Open: 1960-1962

Arnold Palmer, Phoenix Open: 1961-1963

Jack Nicklaus, Disney World Golf Classic: 1971-1973

Johnny Miller, Tucson Open: 1974-1976

Tom Watson, AT&T Byron Nelson: 1978-1980

Tiger Woods, Memorial Tournament: 1999-2001

Tiger Woods, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: 1999-2001

Tiger Woods, Arnold Palmer Invitational: 2000-2003

Stuart Appleby, Sentry Tournament of Champions: 2004-06

Tiger Woods, WGC-Bridgestone Invitational: 2005-2007

Tiger Woods, WGC-Cadillac Championship: 2005-2007

Tiger Woods, Farmers Insurance Open: 2005-2008

Steve Stricker: John Deere Classic: 2009-2011

Tiger appears on the list an incredible six times and two of those streaks were four-timers.

Here's how Casey achieved his first two Valspar victories.

2018 Valspar Championship - Casey wins with Sunday 65

Exactly 3,262 days and 132 starts since his one and only previous PGA Tour win, Casey came from five shots back on the final day to pinch victory with a brilliant 6-under closer.

A bogey at No.3 suggested this wouldn't be his day but he picked up shots at 4, 5, 7, 11, 12 and 13 before closing out with five straight pars.

That 65, adding to previous rounds of 70-68-71, saw him set the clubhouse target of 10-under and no-one could match it.

Position after each round - R1: 8th, R2: 2nd, R3: 11th

Final leaderboard: -10 Paul Casey, -9 Tiger Woods, Patrick Reed, -8 Sergio Garcia, -7 Justin Rose, Rory Sabbatini, -6 Jim Furyk, -5 Webb Simpson, Jason Kokrak, Trey Mullinax, Branden Grace.

Casey's Strokes Gained stats

Off The Tee: -0180 (82nd)

Approach: 5.015 (8th)

Around The Green: 4.560 (4th)

Tee To Green: 9.394 (6th)

Putting: 3.458 (20th)

What he said: "Means a lot. It's been too long. Very satisfying. Probably more satisfying the fact that it was on a week where Tiger played some good golf and got to see some amazing stuff and hear the roars and it just was a great week, the buzz, everything about it, the course. I loved it. I played great. I couldn't be happier

"Pressure wasn't on me. I mean it wasn't even -- what was I, like an hour plus before the final group? So, I was just cruising around. Nobody is watching us. Nobody is watching me. And until it got down to really 12 onwards then it was serious stuff but until that point it was very much a very nice Sunday afternoon."

2019 Valspar Championship - Casey holds firm to win again

There were some obvious contrasts to his victory the year before but the outcome was exactly the same: a one-shot win.

Although he started slowly, after 36 holes Casey had hit the front. From there he had to grind it out and the putter wasn't much help.

Casey drove it much better than his 2018 win and nobody performed better tee-to-green as his 8-under total again secured victory by the minimum margin.

One shot clear after 54 holes, he maintained that narrowest of gaps despite a 1-over 72 on day four.

Position after each round - R1: 29th, R2: 1st, R3: 1st

Final leaderboard: -8 Paul Casey, -7 Louis Oosthuizen, Jason Kokrak, -6 Sungjae Im, Bubba Watson, -5 Ryan Armour, Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, -4 Austin Cook, Denny McCarthy, Luke Donald, Scott Stallings.

Casey's Strokes Gained stats

Off The Tee: 3.442 (10th)

Approach: 4.641 (10th)

Around The Green: 3.154 (15th)

Tee To Green: 11.238 (1st)

Putting: 0.392 (64th)

What he said: "This feels very different from last year, it feels better, I'm enjoying this one so much more. Today it was a struggle, but all week has been so cool to be defending champion.

"I mean, what a golf course, a great field and 8-under is the winning score, 10-under I think was the winning score last year. It's not like it's tricked up, it shows what a good golf course and some firm greens will do."

The threepeat?

Casey was in fantastic form at the start of this year.

From The American Express in January to March's PLAYERS Championship, he reeled off form figures of 8-1-12-5-10-5.

That run, which included victory in the Dubai Desert Classic, took him to 17th in the world.

But since then? A group exit in the WGC Dell Match Play, a somewhat disappointing tied 26th in the Masters when fancied to perform well and a missed cut last time in the RBC Heritage.

He has some strong rivals in opposition this week but in terms of a course horse Casey is the thoroughbred.

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