The Valspar Championship's new "Spring Break" initiatives allowed players to put nicknames on the back of their caddie's bibs this week at Innisbrook. Paul Casey went with "The Champ," a bold move even though he is the defending champion at the Copperhead Course. To go with that as your name for the week, you better back it up.
The Englishman has done exactly that through 54 holes in Palm Harbor, Fla., firing rounds of 70, 66 and Saturday's three-under 68, enough for a one-stroke edge over Dustin Johnson heading into Sunday. He's looking to become the first back-to-back winner in the history of the Valspar, which became an event in 2000.
Casey made five birdies and two bogeys in this third round, one of them coming at his final hole of the day for the second day in a row. He'll need to close better in the final round if he wants to win and improve upon his history with the 54-hole lead. This is the sixth time he's had it in his career, of which he's converted only one into a victory (2009 Shell Houston Open), and he's never broken 70 in any of those final rounds. Making the challenge seem even more difficult is the fact that only three of the last 11 54-hole leaders at the Valspar have finished the job.
Oh, and he'll have to hold off Johnson, the No. 1 ranked player in the world who made a move on Saturday with a four-under 67. Other than all that, Sunday should be a walk in the park for Casey, who is in search of his third career PGA Tour victory.
And then there is Luke Donald, just three back following his third-round, one-under 70. Just being in contention is a small victory for Donald, who is playing on a major medical extension and has teed it up in only one other event in 2019. If the former World No. 1 were to come from behind and win, it would snap a seven-year win drought on tour. His last victory? The 2012 Valspar Championship.
Up-to-the-minute leader board and other scoring information for the Valspar Championship, Innisbrook Resort (Copperhead Course), Palm Harbor, Fla., Mar. 21-24, 2019