A long victory drought on the PGA Tour finally ended Sunday, just not the one a raucous crowd was expecting.
Paul Casey closed with a 6-under-par 65 and won the Valspar Championship, but only after watching from the locker room as Tiger Woods came up one putt short of forcing a playoff. It was the closest Woods has come to winning in nearly five years.
Casey, who started the final round five shots behind, ran off three straight birdies early on the back nine at Innisbrook to take the lead, and he closed with four par saves to post at 10-under 274.
No one caught him, giving him his second PGA Tour title and his first since the Houston Open in 2009.
Patrick Reed was tied for the lead and appeared headed for a playoff at worst until his approach to the 18th came back down the slope, and his 45-foot birdie putt was so weak that it rolled all the way back to his feet. He three-putted for bogey and a 68.
Woods and his massive following went dormant after an opening birdie to briefly share the lead. He went 15 holes without a birdie until he brought the crowd to life with a birdie putt from just inside 45 feet that died into the cup at the par-3 17th, leaving him one shot behind with one hole to play.
Woods played conservatively with an iron off the 442-yard, uphill closing hole on the Copperhead course. From 185 yards, his approach came up some 40 feet short, and his birdie putt to force a playoff was 2 feet short.
‘‘I keep getting a little bit better,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I had a good shot at winning this golf tournament. A couple putts here and there, it could have been a different story.’’
He closed with a 70 — the first time since The Barclays in 2013 that he posted four rounds under par on the PGA Tour — and tied for second. That was his best finish since he tied for second at that Barclays tournament, about the time his back started to give out.
Woods looked closer than ever to winning in his return from fusion surgery on his lower back last April. Each week has been a little better.
He has been a factor on Sunday the last two tournaments, and a gallery that stood 10 deep around just about every green could sense it.
He just couldn’t deliver after a two-putt birdie on the par-5 opening hole.
‘‘I didn’t feel that sharp with my iron game,’’ Woods said. ‘‘I played conservatively into the green because I wasn’t as sharp as yesterday. It was one of those days I kept getting half-clubs.’’
He missed birdie chances on both par 5s on the back nine, pulling a wedge into the rough at No. 11 and three-putting from 80 feet on No. 14. He missed a couple of putts in the 15-foot range. And right when it looked as though he was out of chances, he ran into the 45-foot birdie putt to keep everyone guessing.
Next up for Woods is the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill next week, which he hasn’t played since winning five years ago.
European — Matt Wallace birdied the first playoff hole against fellow Englishman Andrew ‘‘Beef’’ Johnston to win the Indian Open in New Delhi.
Wallace went for the green in two on the playoff hole, the 18th, needing only 20 feet for an eagle. Johnston laid up and had a longer putt for birdie, which he missed, and Wallace won when he tapped in
Johnston shot a final-round 66, Wallace a 68. They finished with 11-under totals of 277.
Champions — Vijay Singh got up-and-down for birdie with a putter from off the green on the final hole for a one-shot victory in the Toshiba Classic in Newport Beach, Calif., to win for the first time as an individual on the Champions tour.
Singh, 55, edged Tommy Tolles, Tom Pernice Jr., and Scott McCarron for the victory. He teamed with Carlos Franco to win last year’s Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf.