Monday 25 March 2019 6:17 pm

Sam Torrance: Paul Casey’s Valspar Championship win is another sign that European golf has never been stronger

Is Europe taking over the PGA Tour? It’s a question worth asking after Paul Casey became the third consecutive player from this side of the pond to beat the Americans in their own back yard.

On Sunday in Florida Casey outdid playing partner and world No1 Dustin Johnson, among others, to become the first man to successfully defend the Valspar Championship – and he won it well.

One clear with two to play, the Englishman dropped a shot when he three-putted 17 and found himself level with Jason Kokrak heading up the last. But he conjured a magnificent bunker shot from near the lip and went on to make a title-clinching par while Kokrak bogeyed.

It had been a tricky start to the round for Casey, who made three bogeys and two birdies on the front nine. Johnson was having an even harder time, though, and Casey kept the bit between his teeth down the stretch to get the job done.

Casey ended a four-year drought when winning this tournament last year and looks to be heading in the right direction again. He is a world class golfer and is now back on the fringes of the top 10 for the first time since 2011.

Anyone who has shown form so far this year looks in good shape for this year’s Majors – starting with the Masters in two weeks’ time – and Casey has put himself in that group.

He has finished in the top 10 on five previous visits to Augusta National, including three of his last four, and he could certainly be a contender again next month.

Europe's hat-trick

Casey’s victory on the PGA Tour followed those of Rory McIlroy, at The Players Championship, and Francesco Molinari, at the Arnold Palmer Invitational earlier in March.

Factor in the likes of world No2 Justin Rose and No8 Jon Rahm and I believe this is as strong as European golf has ever been. It’s exciting – it’s just a shame that there is no Ryder Cup this year.


It was an odd day for Johnson, who failed to make a single birdie in a round at a PGA Tour event for the first time in almost two years and ended up tied for sixth, three behind Casey.

He did not have a good day with the putter, pulling some shots and pushing others. No doubt he will be disappointed but he’s as cool as they come so won’t be unduly troubled.

I was pleased to see Luke Donald challenging again after a couple of years in which back problems have restricted the Englishman to only a handful of tournaments.

The former world No1 vaulted into contention with an eagle at the first hole on Sunday and although he had to settle for a share of ninth, he said he was delighted just to be competing again. Hopefully we’ll see more of him in the coming months.

Great Scott

Over in Kuala Lumpur, meanwhile, 45-year-old Scott Hend landed another blow for the more mature player with victory at the Maybank Championship.

Nacho Elvira took the Australian to a play-off with a fantastic 30-foot putt at the last, but the Spaniard could only par when his older rival birdied the first extra hole.

Seven of Hend’s 11 titles have come since he turned 40. He seems to be thriving in the latter stages of his career and long may that continue.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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