What an exciting week of golf this week on the PGA Tour! The action and atmosphere from the Tampa area was as electric as the power generated by the power plant in nearby Apollo Beach. Let’s take a look at what happened this week during the Valspar Championship held at the Innisbrook Golf Resort on the Copperhead Course in Palm Harbor, Florida. Some of the names that we saw through the course of the week on the leaderboard made it feel like a serious throwback. Bob Estes, Steve Stricker and Jim Furyk to name a few.
I think the place that I want to start right off of the bat is with the obvious. Tiger Woods! This was the first time that he’s played in the Valspar Championship (formerly Tampa Bay Classic and Transitions Championship) and the “Tiger Effect” was very much noticeable. The galleries massive and the air electric. There was something about this tournament that again felt different. I thought that golf was fine without Tiger but there is no doubt it’s better with a healthy, competitive Tiger Woods. I said on social media that I like this iteration of Tiger he seems like he’s enjoying golf and more importantly life. He doesn’t seem like an untouchable cyborg and this week was further proof that he’s “back”. Everything about him looks healthy and it looks like the surgeries are holding up nicely… after all they must be to handle a clubhead speed of 129 mph. I really like his swing and how his overall game looks. It’s inevitable that he’ll be holding a trophy again on a Sunday evening in the not-so distant future. Funny thing though… people are questioning his play on the 72nd hole. No matter how you look at it… it’s all a process. You knew he wanted to win and he did what he (and caddie Joe LaCava) thought what was best.
Speaking of wanting to win. I just want to talk about Canadian Corey Conners for a minute. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t rooting for my fellow Canuck to win this week. This might be the first time that you’ve heard of him but I will almost guarantee this won’t be the last time. The 26 year-old from Listowel, Ontario has what it takes to make it and win. You almost have to like his action which features a silky smooth tempo and swing. His demeanour is calm and cool like an old veteran of the Tour. golf fans won’t remember him from this tournament because nobody ever remembers who the 54-hole leader of a tournament was. But there was Conners a relative unknown in contention coming into Sunday. The names pursuing him were impressive. Champions like Patrick Reed, Justin Rose, Brandt Snedeker, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, and yes… Tiger Woods. His day started off tough carding a bogey on the first hole of the day and unfortunately he was never able to rebound from it. He would bogey the third and eventually double bogey the 13th hole in what would be the “death-blow”. Those bogey’s all made worse by not carding a single birdie. But as sure as the sun will rise in the east Conners will rise again.
Paul Casey. Our 2018 Valspar Championship Champion. It’s been a long time since he was victorious on the PGA Tour and continues a “sort-of trend” started by Michelle Wie and Phil Mickelson a week ago. At 40, Casey was last a champion on the PGA Tour in 2009. Casey was in good form all week and I can’t even imagine how he felt sitting there for what seemed an eternity as the clubhouse leader. I admit I thought that the scoring would be low Sunday… for those teeing off earlier in the day. The conditions were relatively benign with little to no wind. There was a chance of thunderstorms for the afternoon which of course meant the possibility of higher winds coming in off of the Gulf of Mexico in the afternoon. As great as his swing and ball-striking were it was the 21 putts that he made for the round (lowest putts in a round total in his career) that fueled the victory. Casey would end carding an impressive -6 (65) on the final day to win the Valspar Championship. Championships are won and lost on the greens.
Until The Next Tee!!