PALM HARBOR — Paul Casey is out to make history this weekend at the Valspar Championship. But after two days, his chances are not looking good.
The back-to-back champion, the only player to win the PGA Tour tournament in consecutive years (2018 and 2019), is going for a threepeat on Innisbrook’s Copperhead Course after last year’s event was canceled because of the coronavirus.
But after two rounds, Casey was nine shots behind co-leaders Keegan Bradley and Sam Burns.
Casey shot par 71 in Friday’s second round and was at 3-under 139.
Bradley, the first-round leader, shot 5-under 66 and was at 12-under 130 with Burns (63).
Lucas Glover (65), Charley Hoffman (66) and Max Homa (68) were four shots back. Only 10 players were within five shots of the lead through 36 holes.
Only eight times over the past 40 years has a tour player won the same tournament at least three consecutive times. Twenty-five players have done it in tour history.
Tiger Woods has done it six times (1999-2001 World Golf Championship-St. Jude Invitational, 1999-2001 Memorial, 2000-03 Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2005-07 St. Jude Invitational, 2005-07 World Golf Championship-Workday Championship and 2005-08 Farmers Insurance Open).
Stuart Appleby (2004-06 Tournament of Champions) and Steve Stricker (2009-11 John Deere Classic) have each done it once.
Before the start of this year’s Valspar, Casey said he hadn’t thought about what it would mean to accomplish win the tournament three times in a row.
“It would just be extremely cool, flat out,” Casey said. “I think even more so with the gap, as well, with the one-year sort of hiatus.”
In college, Casey won three straight Pac-10 (now Pac-12) championships at Arizona State from 1998-2000.
“There was talk about it back then, having won one and then won the second one and then talking about the third,” Casey said. “I remember a little bit like now, I wasn’t really that nervous. There was a level of expectation, but I felt like there was no pressure because nobody is expecting me to do it, which is a little bit the same case this week.”
Casey said he remembers his three straight conference titles being “the coolest feeling ever.”
As a sophomore in 1999, he entered the final round at Broadmoor Golf Club in Colorado Springs, Colo., eight strokes behind leader Joel Kribel, a Stanford senior.
Then, Casey pulled off a final round for the record books, shooting 10-under 60 to break the course record of 61 and finish two strokes ahead of Kribel.
“I don’t think he’s ever forgiven me,” Casey said, laughing. “I just saw Joel Kribel (on Tuesday).”
Casey has a lot of work ahead of him to win a third straight Valspar.
“I’ve been in the game long enough, but there’s numerous things that I still want to win and wish I had won,” he said. “So just to add something to the fabric of everything would be very, very cool. I’ll tell you on Sunday how it feels.”