Tiger Woods still brings ratings gold for golf

Tiger still in the hunt as Casey storms into Valspar lead

Tiger Woods did not win the 2018 Valspar Championship (a thing I need to keep reminding myself), but he helped golf win both on and off the course. Five years since the last of his 79 wins, and 10 since the last of his 14 majors, it is no longer impossible to imagine those numbers climbing in the future. No one really cares that Paul Casey won on Sunday. "I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament".

"Probably not the most significant win of my career, but it's certainly one of the most satisfying ones, the quality of the golf I played", said Casey, who has also won 13 times on the European Tour.

Woods carded 70 and had to settle for second with fellow American Patrick Reed (68), who made an embarrassing bogey at the last when his first putt, through the fringe, failed to make it up the hill and rolled all the way back to his feet.

He couldn't repeat the feat at the 18th to force a playoff, however, another long birdie try coming up a couple of feet short.

"Tiger, this is what you're meant for", shouted one spectator.

The for Tiger Woods had swelled to near-capacity by the ninth hole
The for Tiger Woods had swelled to near-capacity by the ninth hole

Missing, that is, until the par-three 17th, where Woods perfectly read and then executed a 43-foot birdie putt, his ball curling deliciously into the centre of the cup as the gallery went berserk.

"The clean-ups on 16, 17 and 18 - fantastic", Casey said.

On his way off the course, Woods stopped to sign autographs, showing a good deal more patience than he had during his heyday."Wow, what an wonderful week ... people, atmosphere, adrenaline, back nine on Sunday, man I've missed this", Woods later tweeted. It was there in the swell of fans lining the fairways of Innisbrook this weekend - aiming smartphone cameras and a constant stream of well-wishes in his direction - and in the determined carving out of four-hour blocks of couch time across the nation on Sunday afternoon.

NBC Sports drew a record 3.26 overnight rating Saturday for its coverage of the third round. "I want him to win again - because I want these kids to see what we dealt with for a long, long time". Truth be told the sport has an abundance of great young golfers, but for whatever reason, they lack the excitement that Woods provides.

For the past few years, you could just about convince yourself that golf was doing just fine without Woods as a factor. The Masters Championship couldn't come any sooner.

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