World number one Dustin Johnson believes he is closer than ever to recapturing the form which made him a strong favourite for the 2017 Masters.
But this time it is his brother and caddie Austin who has suffered an untimely injury after an incident with some stairs.
In 2017 Johnson was a 5/1 favourite for the Masters after three successive wins, only to injure his back by falling down some stairs in his rented house in Augusta and be forced to withdraw without hitting a shot.
Two years on the former US Open champion has two wins in his last five events and was fifth in the Players Championship on Sunday, after which his brother broke a bone in his hand after tripping up the stairs of Dustin’s current house.
“He had a bit of a run-in with a pair of stairs, kind of like I did,” Johnson told a pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Valspar Championship.
“Those stairs, man, they’ll get you. He broke a bone in his hand. He was carrying the stuff in the house after TPC on Sunday night and slipped going up the stairs.”
Johnson returned to Augusta in 2018 to record his third consecutive top-10 finish in the year’s first major and feels he is almost back to the form he had in early 2017.
“I’m getting closer, for sure,” the 34-year-old added. “I feel like the swing’s starting to feel a lot better. The shot patterns are starting to get more consistent.
“I mean back then that was probably the best form I’ve ever been in and getting injured, it’s taken a while to get back to that form. But it’s definitely the closest I’ve felt to that stage of my career.”
England’s Paul Casey won his first PGA Tour event since 2009 in last year’s Valspar Championship, a final round of 65 on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Resort leaving him a shot ahead of Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed.
Reed, who would go on to win the Masters, looked set to match Casey’s clubhouse target of 10 under before dropping a shot on the final hole, while Woods holed from 40 feet for birdie on the 17th but could not convert from a similar distance on the last to force a play-off.
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“I have very cool memories being back here,” Casey said. “It’s been great being out on the course the last two days to kind of relive that and being back on the 18th green yesterday, making the great up-and-down on 18 last year that sealed the victory.
“Walking into the locker room, seeing the sofa that I was sitting on for an hour and a half watching the drama unfold. It’s always good memories any time I’ve won an event anywhere around the world – it always has a little special place in your heart and this one very much has that.”