Self-belief after big win helps Casey retain Valspar title

Paul Casey waited nine years to repeat as a PGA Tour winner but has his third win after just a year.
Paul Casey waited nine years to repeat as a PGA Tour winner but has his third win after just a year.

TAMPA • Paul Casey is a living testament to the adage that confidence breeds success after becoming the first player to retain the Valspar Championship title on Sunday.

The Englishman had not won a PGA event in nine years before ending his drought at the Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbour last year.

And following a battling one-stroke victory over South Africa's Louis Oosthuizen (69) and American Jason Kokrak (71) in Florida, Casey recalled how "last year's win was so big" that his self-belief had come in leaps and bounds.

After his final round of 72 for an eight-under 276 total, which was enough to secure his third PGA Tour title, he told TV channel NBC: "That felt like my first victory as a professional. I've felt so different since then, new confidence.

"I'm getting older but I feel like I'm getting better. This is so cool."

Casey played all week with an unusual caddie bib, which instead of displaying his name on the back simply read: "The Champ".

They were words of his choosing, after tournament organisers asked him what he would like to do.

Joking that he "did not need to change the caddie bib for next year either", Casey added: "Today was a struggle, but all week, it's felt so cool being defending champion."

The 41-year-old is the third straight European winner on tour, following Italy's Francesco Molinari (Arnold Palmer Invitational) and Northern Irishman Rory McIlroy (Players Championship).

There was also further cause for celebration after he jumped four places to world No. 11 yesterday.

He will head to the Masters in a couple of weeks certainly part of the conversation at a Major where he has a strong recent record, having not finished below 15th over the past four years.

While American Dustin Johnson retained his lead at the top of golf's summit, the world No. 1 could only lament a birdie-free 74 that left him three shots behind in a tie for sixth, a disappointment after he had started the day one behind Casey.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2019, with the headline 'Self-belief after big win helps Casey retain Valspar title'. Print Edition | Subscribe