Sam Burns wins 1st PGA Tour title at Valspar Championship
Sam Burns figured each one of those close calls would in the long run show him how to win on the PGA Tour.
Twice this season, he had the 54-hole lead and failed to convert. Six different times, he was atop the leaderboard toward the finish of a round, just never the round that made a difference – Sunday’s.
That changed, at long last, at the Valspar Championship. Also, the lesson was not what he expected.
“I always felt that you had to play perfect golf to win,” Burns said after a 3-under 68 for a three-shot victory. “I always felt that you had to play your absolute best on a Sunday to win. And after those experiences, I realized that it’s not the case. I was trying to do too much.”
He did barely enough – and got some assistance from Keegan Bradley.
Tied for the lead with six holes to play, Bradley hit a 8-iron short and into the water for a double bogey on the par-3 13th hole, and Burns set him aside with two major birdies and a festival he had reason to feel was a long time coming.
Burns was all smiles coming the 18th hole with a four-shot lead, and he was fighting back tears when his better half, parents and other family spilled onto the green after he won.
“I’ve worked so hard for this moment,” Burns said. “They’ve all sacrificed so much.”
The triumph moves him to No. 44 on the planet and everything except guarantees the 24-year-old from Louisiana a spot in the U.S. Open, alongside his first trip to the Masters next spring.
Bradley and Burns were tied through 36 holes and 54 holes, and they remained as such through 12 holes on one more blistering day at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
That changed with one swing.
Bradley came up well short on the par-3 13th and went into the water, prompting twofold intruder. Consumes saved standard with a 8-foot putt for a two-shot lead.
“I just hit a terrible shot,” Bradley said. “I hadn’t hit a really bad shot all week, and you just can’t hit it there, obviously, but you can’t hit it right of the flag. And I just came out of it a little bit; it got gobbled up by the wind. If it goes another yard, it might have been in that bunker, but it was a bummer.”
Burns three shots ahead through 13 holes on Saturday, and he struggled to retain a share of the lead, so he realized what was possible. This time, however, Bradley got no opportunity.
Bradley needed to lay up from the unpleasant on the par-5 14th, and Burns didn’t have the opportunity to think about his next shot. His caddie, Travis Perkins, chose for him.
“We’re walking over to the ball and Travis says, ‘Tree’s in your way; we’re laying up.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, what about this and that?’ And he’s like, ‘Nope, you got 180 to this number right there, it’s a perfect 7-iron, this is your line,”’ Burns said.
He hit lob wedge to a foot for birdie and was on his way.
“He knows that I’m always trying to go pedal down. and then in that situation, that just wasn’t the play,” Burns said. “A year ago, he would not have done that, and today, he did. And it’s one of the reasons that we were able to win today.”
He had reason to accept this second might have come sooner. Burns wasted a good beginning at the season-opening Safeway Open. He shut with a 2-over 72 to tie for seventh in the Houston Open. He lost a two-shot lead at Riviera, coming up one shot shy of a season finisher.
“Those moments in the past, you really learn a lot,” Burns said.
He set Bradley aside with a 18-foot birdie putt on the sixteenth opening and an uncommon demonstration of feeling, hammering his clench hand after it dropped. He had a four-shot lead with two holes to play, the water and worst of the hazards behind him.
Nobody else had much of a chance.
Max Homa briefly tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 opening hole. He didn’t make another birdie the remainder of the day, missing several chances around the turn and ending his hopes with a double bogey on the par-3 15th without hitting into the water. He shot 74.
Cameron Tringale was lurking however never genuinely tested. He shot 68 and imparted third to Viktor Hovland, who had a 65 but started too far back beginning of the day.
Abraham Ancer (69) completed fifth.
Burns constructed a fast, two-shot lead on the front nine on Sunday. Bradley replied with a couple of birdies at that point made a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 9 to make a one-shot lead to the back nine.
Burns got him with a birdie on the 11th. The rest of the day, he wasn’t awesome. He didn’t need to be to win.