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Valspar leaderboard, grades: Tiger Woods thrills but falls just short of win

12 March 2018

Englishman Paul Casey surged to victory at the Valspar Championship in Florida on Sunday as Tiger Woods came tantalisingly close to ending his five-year drought.

The putt put Woods right on Paul Casey's heels entering the final hole, with the possibility of a playoff if Woods could make another clutch birdie to finish out his round.

Casey carded a final round of 65 on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort to set a clubhouse target of 10 under par, which American Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed looked set to match before he bogeyed the final hole.

With most people expecting or wanting Woods to complete a fairytale first win since 2013, Casey quietly went about his business. 'It's hard because when I play in my weeks off or practice, it feels pretty good.

"I loved his putt on 17", Casey said. Those little mistakes will get you and they got me this week. But just being there - playing alongside major victor and Olympic champ Justin Rose and one group behind Tiger Woods - could be a career-changing experience. To be fair, he's won plenty of tournaments since the 2009 Shell Houston Open, his only other PGA TOUR title. He had just 21 putts in his final round, drilling seven birdies and adding a lone bogey on the 3rd. "A couple putts here and there, it could have been a different story". "So it's nice that I'm playing again next week [at the Arnold Palmer Invitational] and have a chance to try and do that". "I mean, it's terrible to say, [but] we kind of got used to not seeing him out here and it was still good; but it's that much better when he does come and play".

'If I fix the technical thing, the timing will come back 'It's just where the club is at the top, it's having to travel a greater distance to get back to the ball.

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Woods blistered a 258-yard 2-iron off the tee, then strode purposefully up the last, the adrenaline flowing, fans young and old lining the fairway and hollering, "Let's go Tiger!", trying to will the game's most popular figure to a victory that seemed improbable even five months ago. "I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament". Woods will play in the second-to-last group Sunday.

He missed birdie chances on both par 5s on the back nine, pulling a wedge into the rough at No. 11 and three-putting from 80 feet on No. 14. When I get out on to the course it isn't the same.

And then, well, just look at him: "I think he's for real healthy this time", LaCava said.

Afterward, he stood in front of a pack of reporters and sounded pleased that he'd given himself an opportunity, sure, but disappointed that he'd come up short. You could tell yourself that Phil Mickelson, a victor last week in Mexico City at the age of 47, could deliver enough nostalgia to make up for Woods's absence, that Rory McElroy possesses enough of the swashbuckling charisma, that Jordan Spieth has enough steely-nerved edge and Dustin Johnson enough breathtaking game - and that all of them put together, not to mention Jon Rahm and Justin Thomas and Jason Day, were enough to carry the sport forward.

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.

Valspar leaderboard, grades: Tiger Woods thrills but falls just short of win