Casey repeats at Valspar, PGA Tour hands out anti-doping suspension and a win 15 years in the making: What you missed this weekend
Welcome to the Dew Sweeper, your one-stop shop to catch up on the weekend action from the golf world. From the professional tours, trending news, social media headlines and upcoming events, here's every golf-related thing you need to know for the morning of March 25
Casey repeats at Valspar
It took Paul Casey a decade to get his second win on the PGA Tour. Wasn't quite the wait for No. 3.
The 41-year-old overcame a three-putt at the 71st hole with a nifty sand save at the last to repeat at the Valspar Championship, defeating Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Kokrak by one.
"Today wasn't easy," Casey said. "But I felt very different since winning last year, last year's win was so big that it felt like my first victory as a professional. But I've felt so different since then. New confidence, I'm getting older but I feel like I'm getting better."
It was an odd day at Innisbrook, with few players able to surmount a charge at the Copperhead Course. That included Dustin Johnson. Playing in the final group, the World No. 1 failed to make a birdie for the first time in a round since the 2017 WGC-HSBC (when he infamously lost a six-shot lead), his three-over 74 dropping him to T-6.
Not that the final holes were short on theatrics. Casey's three-jack dropped him to eight under on the tournament, bringing Oosthuizen (who had the clubhouse lead at seven) and Kokrak (on the fringe at the 18th at eight under) into the mix. But Kokrak's birdie attempt was well off line, and his 10-footer for par didn't drop. Casey, who's drive at the 18th found the beach, played a beautiful approach to the middle of the green, with his putt finishing an inch away from the hole to clinch the victory.
Casey jumps up to No. 11 in the OWGR, his highest mark since June of 2011. Don't be surprised if he cracks the top 10 in short order: with six Sweet 16s and two runner-ups in his career at the WGC-Match Play, the Englishman is a threat to find the winner's circle in back-to-back weeks.
Bhatia dazzles in pro debut
Akshay Bhatia failed to make the cut at the Valspar Championship, but in no way does "fail" encapsulate his performance.
Making his PGA Tour debut at Innisbrook, the 17-year-old prodigy turned heads early in the week by stating his goal was not to make the cut but win the tournament, sprinkling in a little trash talk to Jon Rahm for good measure. Though that wish didn't come to fruition, Bhatia didn't disappoint with rounds of 74 and 72 at the Copperhead Course.
He even made a stout weekend push with three birdies in his first five holes on Friday morning. But he doubled the ninth thanks to a chunked chip and three-putt, and consecutive bogeys on the 17th and 18th sealed his fate.
"The biggest thing I learned is I need to drive it better, really," Bhatia said. "I hit it pretty well this week and I putted decently well, but when you're playing from the rough or the trees it's not very fun and that's the hardest thing. Especially out here."
Nevertheless, it was a premiere filled with positives. He made seven birdies, ranked in the top 15 in putts per GIR through two rounds and rocketed a 343-yard drive.Bhatia, who is expected to turn professional later this year, said he intends to enter Monday qualifying at a handful of PGA Tour and Web.com Tour events this spring. He also seemed to gather how to calibrate his game going forward, and what it will take to ultimately become a regular on the circuit.
"It's awesome to play against these guys and these guys do an unreal job playing this golf course because six under's a really good score out here," Bhatia said. "So it's just getting more experience out here and I'm on the right track and this start was unbelievable and to have Dustin and Sergio, Paul Casey, all these guys who played well here and had success on the PGA Tour, it's nice and I've learned a lot."
Garrigus suspended for marijuana use
On Friday afternoon the PGA Tour announced a three-month suspension for Robert Garrigus following a failed drug test.
"The PGA Tour announced today that Robert Garrigus has violated the PGA Tour Anti-Doping Program by testing positive for a substance identified as a drug of abuse," read a tour statement. "In accordance with the PGA Tour Conduct Policy that applies to violations involving drugs of abuse, he has been suspended for a period of three months."
A "drug of abuse" is defined by the tour as "recreational drugs that are often times obtained illegally." Garrigus, who has been transparent about his addiction battles in the past, released his own statement, confirming the drug in question was marijuana.
Garrigus, who's made over 330 career starts on tour, joins Brad Fritsch, Mark Hensby, Scott Stallings, Bhavik Patel, and Doug Barron as the only players to be suspended by the tour's anti-doping program. Vijay Singh was also publicly announced, but his suspension was withdrawn and the two entities went to, and settled out of, court.
Hend pulls off bank, and comeback
Scott Hend executed a marvelous trick on Saturday, and survived one on Sunday, to capture the Maybank Championship.
The 45-year-old Hend had not just erased a three-shot deficit to 54-leader Nacho Elvira, but went into the 72nd hole up one. As Elvira was chipping off the green, a loud clap of thunder disturbed Elvira's backswing, causing his ball to come up 30 feet short of its intended target. The tournament was then halted for nearly two hours for the storm that followed. When it resumed, Elvira dropped that 30-footer to send the proceedings into a playoff.
However, lightning would not strike twice for Elvira, as his tee shot found the bunker on the 18th hole at Saujana Golf & Country Club in Kaula Lumpur, forcing a lay-up on the 569-yard par 5. Elvira could not match Hend's up-and-down birdie, giving Hend his third career Euro Tour victory.
“I had my mind on the job the whole time,” Hend, who had lost two playoffs since his last victory at the 2016 Thailand Classic, said. “Nacho holed a magnificent putt to tie, which just shows that anything can happen in golf. I had to think he would hole it. But I still had a chance to win. I’m just glad it went my way.”
Also going Hend's way: this off-the-grandstand approach to end his third round.
And yes, Hend called bank:
Fantastic, although—between this and the thunder—we're guessing Elvira has a few choice words for the golf gods.
For the wait for Covello
Take your tales of Rocky Balboa and Nick Foles and shove 'em. Philadelphia's true underdog story is Vince Covello.
Covello, a product of the City of Brotherly Love, has played seven different tours in 15 years of professional golf. He now has a trophy to go along with that travel log. On Sunday at the Web.com Tour's Louisiana Open, the 36-year-old won his first ranked tournament.
“It’s unbelievable ... I wasn’t sure this day would ever come,” Covello said. “I feel blessed to be here, lucky to get it done. It was a crazy finish and I pulled out everything I could.”
Playing in the final group with Justin Lower, Covello birdied two of his final three holes to force a playoff with Lower. Despite sending his opening tee shot in the water at Le Triomphe Golf and Country Club's 18th hole, Covello managed to save par on the first hole of sudden death to extend overtime, and the duo swapped missed birdie putts on the second. However, Covello delivered the deciding haymaker by sticking his approach to two feet on the third go-around of the 18th, tapping in to grab the victory.
“I’ve been playing golf a long, long time," Covello said. "That’s why we play is to see how you handle yourself under the gun. I think I did my best.”
After 15 years, Covello's on the precipice of putting his best against the best. Beginning the week ranked 925th in the world rankings, Covello moved into fourth place on the Web.com's season points list, putting him in excellent position to finally earn his tour card. A moment for Covello undoubtedly worth the wait.
Jared C. Tilton
USGA appoints new face of player relations
The USGA has come under fire for its latest revision to the Rules of Golf, with a number of high-profile players complaining about the lack of rapport between the PGA Tour and the governing body. It appears those criticisms have been heard.
To combat communication issues, the USGA has hired Jason Gore for its new senior director of player relations. According to the USGA, the "appointment launches a comprehensive program aimed at sharing information and strengthening engagement with players in areas of importance to the USGA. These include initiatives to grow and advance the game, research critical to the game’s health and continuing to incorporate the players' perspective in its work to advance the sport."
The 44-year-old Gore has made 291 starts on the PGA Tour and another 233 on the Web.com Tour in his career. A former U.S. Walker Cup member, Gore is best known for playing in the final group on Sunday of the 2005 U.S. Open as a Cinderella, beginning the week outside the top 800 in the world rankings. Though Gore would shoot a final-round 84, he would go on to win the 84 Lumber Classic later that fall.
In recent years, Gore has bounced around the tour and Web.com, making just four starts at the big-league level this year. Though he may continue to play in a handful of events, Gore will lead a full-time staff at the USGA's headquarters in Liberty Corner, N.J., primarily focusing on the USGA's U.S. Open and its elite amateur competitions.
"While we’ve often engaged with players on a variety of projects and enjoy many longstanding relationships, this is the first time we have dedicated a team of full-time staff members to serve as year-long ambassadors for the USGA, as well as a voice for players," said John Bodenhamer, senior managing director, championships, in a statement. "We’re excited to see what has been a long-term priority coming to fruition.”
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