What a gritty, gritty playoff win says about Sam Burns | Golf News and Tour Information

At 3:47 p.m. central time, Sam Burns completed his final round at the Charles Schwab Challenge with a four-inch tap-in on the 18th green. It was his sixth consecutive par, and it marked the end of a relatively cool streak that seemed to have cost him a chance for a stunning victory from behind at Colonial Country Club after a first 30. With the leaders many holes behind and already ahead by a shot, Burns’ gallant charge, culminating in a five under 65, seemed to be just short of what he needed to pull off the miracle. It might have been realistic to expect one of his rivals to disappear down the home stretch, but there weren’t just one, or two, or even three, but four players sitting at less than 10 years old. Even if none of them could improve this score, at least one would manage not to lose ground.

Two hours and 13 minutes later, at 6 p.m. central time, Burns rolled in a 38-foot downhill putt from the green, saw his friend and world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler narrowly miss a similar prayer and won. the whole thing.

How did it happen? How did the 25-year-old Louisiana native achieve the biggest comeback in the history of this venerable tournament? Well, you can define the strange happenings of Sunday at Colonial either positively – by what Sam Burns did – or negatively, but by what everyone else failed to do.

Let’s start with Burns, who came out scorching on a sunny but windy day in Fort Worth, on a course he had visited as a child when his mentor David Toms won in 2011. Burns’ main adjustment to Colonial this year was to play more aggressively by hitting more drivers on a Perry Maxwell track known in recent years for taking the driver out of players’ hands.

It worked. Burns’ opening nine was a bird shootout, one after another, starting with a seven-footer on the first hole. On the second, he ran 350 yards, hit his short throw 10 feet, and buried the putt. Indeed, everything seemed to work early. A brief bogey hiccup on the fifth hole was the only break in a six-birdie streak culminating with a nine-footer on the ninth to enter the 30-turn.

The mid-range birdie putts continued to fall on 11, but an errant drive on the 12th, which he lamented in his post-round interview, led to his second bogey of the day and halted his momentum in his tracks. He wouldn’t make another birdie, although he came within inches on almost every hole. Inasmuch as a 65 can be “underwhelming” in any way, it was a disappointing finish considering his scorching start.

“I thought I had to make that putt on 18 in regulation time to get to 10 [under]”, he said later, “and to be honest, I thought I had succeeded. I hit a really good putt and just missed the bottom.”

At that time, the tournament was up for grabs. Harold Varner III, Davis Riley, Brendon Todd and Scheffler, the 54 hole leader, had found their way to 10 under, through various means, and the trophy was there for the grab. Instead, gravity reached out and grabbed them all, one by one, as nerves and harsh conditions made their mission increasingly impossible.

“I can assure you I didn’t envy them while they were playing,” Burns said. “It didn’t seem to blow unless we were there, it was just one of those things when you finally finish, you’re just ready to be done.”

Varner, perhaps unsurprisingly, was the first to take his hat off the ring. He struggled for a long time to play in tense situations close to the header on Sunday, and this was an exaggerated version of all his worst moments. A three-hole streak starting on the 12th was almost indescribably poor, resulting in a triple bogey, a double bogey and another triple (and a healthy amount of 757 Twitter jokes). That torpedoed his chances, and two more disastrous holes to close left him with a head scratch of 45 on the back nine. He finished tied for the tournament, tied for 27th, and a whole host of questions about how to fix his pressure performance.

Riley was next to go, and while his fall was not as dramatic as Varner’s, it was just as decisive – a bogey at 13 after a missed four-footer for par and a double bogey at 14 after the first. driving off limits whoever has hit the hole all week has taken it to dizzying heights and to a safer part of the leaderboard.

That left the final pairing of Todd and Scheffler, the former falling to eight under after bogeys at 11 and 12. Todd couldn’t escape that number despite a strong effort down the home stretch. This little birdie miss on 16 was particularly infuriating after a seemingly perfect read:

Like Burns, Todd couldn’t do anything on the back nine despite some tight calls, and when his approach shot found the bunker at 18 he was effectively knocked out.

“It’s my favorite run on tour,” Todd said after his one-of-71 left him third in solo. “It’s a place where I feel like I can struggle, and I’ve done it again. … It’s tough, because I feel like if I had achieved a few things today , I would have been the big winner.”

With everyone around him gasping, the tournament seemed up for grabs for Scheffler, and after his many wins this season – four in his last nine starts, culminating at the Masters – there was no question of the pressure on him. affected. As Burns would later say, “the way this guy is playing right now, who would’ve ever thought you’d get a seven-time chance?”

And yet, after a 66-65-68 start to the tournament, Scheffler somehow set up a round of zero birdies when a simple even shot would have been enough to win by two strokes. Strange as it may seem, Scheffler was lucky enough to hold on at nine under as his day drew to a close, sinking normal nine-foot, eight-foot and six-foot putts on three of the last four holes to carve a narrow path to the playoffs. . A triumph at Colonial would have given him five PGA Tour wins this season, making him one of six players to accomplish this feat since 1981.

Instead, in the playoffs with Burns (and with his sister-in-law’s wedding on Sunday night), Scheffler watched his “best friend on tour” hit the unlikely putt and take the championship from him.

For his troubles, Burns pocketed his fourth PGA Tour victory in the past 13 months, $1.512 million and a fully restored 1979 Pontiac Firebird. And the quote of the day came during his post-round press conference, when a reporter asked Burns a simple question:

Michael C. Ford