Miami, March 12: Tiger Woods finished one shot short of victory in a dramatic end to the Valspar Championship, as Paul Casey came charging through the field to claim his first PGA Tour title in nine years.
Woods began the final round just a stroke off the pace at Palm Harbor, leading to heightened expectations on Sunday (March 11) as the 14-time major champion sought to end a win drought stretching back to 2013.
The 42-year-old, competing at the highest level once again after four back surgeries in recent years, drew predictably huge crowds in the final round but could not reproduce the sharpness that earned him a 67 on Saturday (March 10).
He nevertheless approached the final green knowing a birdie would force a play-off, following a stunning 44-foot putt for a two on the 17th that sent his supporters crazy.
Woods could not drain another effort from distance on the last, though, and signed for a 70 to tie for second with Patrick Reed on nine under, one behind Casey, who was five back at the start of the day but shot 65 to post a clubhouse target that remained unmatched.
Reed was tied with Casey coming up the last, only to sensationally throw away the chance of victory – hitting a weak birdie putt from distance that ultimately saw the ball roll back down a ridge to its starting point.
That left Woods as the only man who could catch the leader, but the former world number one was only able to make par at the end of a largely frustrating round featuring just two birdies and a solitary bogey.
Casey, whose only previous PGA Tour win came at the 2009 Houston Open, had moved into contention with a three-under front nine, before surging to the top of the leaderboard thanks to three birdies in a row from the 11th.
The Englishman then held his nerve over the daunting closing holes, known as the Snake Pit, before watching on as Reed faltered spectacularly and Woods came up just short in a thrilling finale.
With the Masters looming, Woods will nevertheless be able to take a host of positives from the week, having registered his first top-10 finish in an official event since 2015 and a first placing in the top three since 2013, when he won five tournaments.
Sergio Garcia finished fourth on eight under after matching Casey's 65, while Justin Rose was one further back with Rory Sabbatini after struggling for any form en route to a 72.
Rookie Corey Conners, who topped the leaderboard after each of the first three rounds, tied for 16th after a closing 77 and Brandt Snedeker – Woods' playing partner – fared even worse, carding a miserable 78.