Valspar Championship 2019: Paul Casey Leads Dustin Johnson Entering Final Round

Paul KasabianSenior ContributorMarch 23, 2019

PALM HARBOR, FLORIDA - MARCH 23:  Paul Casey of England reacts on the fourth green during the third round of the Valspar Championship on the Copperhead course at Innisbrook Golf Resort on March 23, 2019 in Palm Harbor, Florida. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)
Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Here's the good news for Paul Casey: He leads the Valspar Championship by one stroke heading into the final round.

Here's the bad news for the tournament's defending champion: World No. 1 Dustin Johnson is in second.

Still, Casey has been on fire for the last two rounds, shooting eight under to head into Sunday with a nine-under 204. He's also used to great golfers breathing down his neck at Valspar, as Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed finished one stroke behind Casey last year.

As for Johnson, he's looking to win his second 2019 tournament after taking down WGC-Mexico in February.

A host of players are right behind them between five- and seven-under, though, so this tournament at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, is still up for grabs.

You can take look at the top-10 Valspar leaderboard and some highlights after moving day below.

                     

Saturday Leaderboard Scores (Top 10 and Ties)

1. Paul Casey: -9

2. Dustin Johnson: -8

3. Jason Kokrak: -7

T4. Luke Donald: -6

T4. Scott Stallings: -6

T6. Austin Cook: -5

T6. Sungjae Im: -5

T6. Louis Oosthuizen: -5

T6. Jim Furyk: -5

T6. Curtis Luck: -5

T6. Nick Taylor: -5

Full leaderboard can be found on PGATour.com.

      

Saturday Highlights

Paul Casey Takes Solo Lead

No golfer has been steadier and more consistent than Casey this weekend.

Casey hit 69.2 percent of fairways and 72.2 percent of greens in regulation in the third round, per PGATour.com. He also gained 1.188 strokes putting.

The 41-year-old has only made four bogeys in his last 45 holes.

Casey isn't working any magic. Simply put, his iron play has been tremendous. None of his five made birdie putts on Saturday were from longer than 11 feet, and four of them were within eight feet.

However, he ran into trouble on the 18th hole after his tee shot landed in the bunker. An awkward spot forced him to hit it high just to get the ball out. Casey accomplished that, but the ball fell short of the green. His next shot landed 14 feet from the hole, and his ensuing par putt just missed.

Casey hasn't experienced much luck when holding a lead after Saturday, per PGA Tour Communications:

However, he's the defending champion for a reason and can win again despite the tough and close competition.

             

Jason Kokrak and Dustin Johnson Stay Close Thanks to Fantastic Shots

Jason Kokrak tied Louis Oosthuizen for the low round of the day thanks to a five-under 66 that was buoyed by a hole-in-one on the par-three 15th:

Kokrak went six under from the seventh through 15th holes after posting his one bogey on the sixth.

Meanwhile, Johnson has now registered 14 straight rounds under 70 strokes thanks to a four-under 67 on Saturday. That streak could have been history if not for an incredible scramble and save after hitting the rough on his opening tee shot and approach on the 14th:

A 34-foot putt closed out the hole, giving Johnson a share of the lead at the time.

The 34-year-old pulled another rabbit out of his hat on the 18th. After his tee shot landed in a bunker, Johnson somehow hit his approach within seven feet. He knocked in the birdie from there for a solo second:

Johnson will play with Casey in the final Sunday grouping. He is the favorite at 5-4, per SuperBook VP of Risk Management Jeff Sherman:

      

Louis Oosthuizen Catches Fire

Oosthuizen experienced a 2019 start to forget through four PGA Tour tournaments, missing the cut twice and finishing no higher than 25th in the two others.

His first two Valspar rounds were uninspiring as well, although he snuck in above the cut line at even par.

The 2010 Open champion's luck has taken a turn for the better, however, thanks to a five-under 66.

Oosthuizen shot five under on the front nine and even held the lead with another birdie on the par-five 11.

No shot was more impressive than his 48-foot chip to move to seven-under on the 13th:

Oosthuizen's day could have been even better. He nearly holed out from 208 yards on the third, eventually settling for birdie. His aforementioned 11th-hole birdie was a mere four-inch putt.

The 36-year-old did bogey two of the final three holes to drop back, but he still has a puncher's chance at pulling off a win. At the least, he's within striking distance of the top three.

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