Golf-Casey takes aim at rare PGA Tour three-peat

Mar 13, 2021; Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, USA; Paul Casey plays a shot from a bunker on the 14th hole during the third round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

(Reuters) - Paul Casey is feeling no pressure in his bid this week to join an elite group who have won three consecutive titles at the same PGA Tour event when he tees it up at the Valspar Championship in Palm Harbor, Florida.

The Englishman is the two-time defending champion of the event, which was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, and feels the presence of world number one Dustin Johnson and number two Justin Thomas works to his advantage.

"I've never had a three-peat as a professional, and I feel like the pressure is not on me," Casey said on Wednesday.

"We've got Justin Thomas and guys like that playing this week, and the focus is going to be on them, so I feel like I'm kind of in a sweet spot and raring to go."

There have only been eight instances of a player winning a tournament three or more times in a row over the last 40 years and Tiger Woods accounted for six of those.

Stuart Appleby accomplished the feat at the Sentry Tournament of Champions from 2004-06 while the last player to pull it off was Steve Stricker, who was unbeatable at the John Deere Classic from 2009-11.

"It's elite company," said Casey. "I've been in the game long enough, but there's numerous things that I still want to win, so just to add something to the fabric of everything would be very, very cool."

Casey has not played since missing the cut at the RBC Heritage two weeks ago but has four top-10 finishes in 12 starts this season, share fifth place in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and The Players Championship.

"I feel very happy with the game. There's nothing I'm worried about," said Casey.

The world number 20 will play the opening two rounds this week at Innisbrook Resort's Copperhead course alongside 2019 U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland and Jason Kokrak.

(Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Ed Osmond)

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