The trophy, Sam Burns says, is in his living room. And when he does living room-type things, he’ll sneak a peek at the hardware from last year’s Valspar Championship, where Burns won for the first time. “Obviously kind of always puts a smile on my face just to look back on this week last year,” he said.
But his biggest takeaway?
“I think it was kind of sticking more to my game plan coming down the stretch, and for a while there, I thought I kind of needed to play perfect, but really just needed to kind of play steady and hit the correct shots, and I was able to do that here last year and it worked out,” Burns said earlier this week. “So I think that was a big learning lesson for me.”
On Sunday, it was more of the same. And then some. Burns played steady. Burns hit the correct shots. And an amazing one. It worked out.
He is your Valspar Championship champion again.
Starting the day three shots back, Burns methodically picked apart a softer-than-usual-but-still-surly Innisbrook course to pull into the lead. Then, on the second hole of a playoff with third-round leader Davis Riley, Burns dropped a 32-footer for birdie, and the 25-year-old is now a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
A back-and-forth between Burns and Riley began after Riley disastrously triple-bogeyed the par-5 5th. On the par-3 17th, Burns was up two, then he bogeyed after hitting his tee shot into a greenside bunker, Riley birdied in the group behind after hitting to 6 feet, and they were even. After pars on 18, they went to the first playoff hole, also on 18.
Each parred. On the second playoff hole, Burns hit his second shot just onto the fringe, Riley hit just off the green, then Burns followed with his 32-footer. The tournament was over when Riley chipped past the hole.
“Sam is a hell of a player,” Riley said afterward. “Anytime you give somebody who’s playing well a putt within 30 feet, you always think there’s a chance, so I went into there thinking he was going to give it a really good run. It doesn’t surprise me. He’s been a very putter for a long time.”
You have to think Burns is going to win a major this year, right?
The 15 big shots
— Davis Riley begins the final round with a two-shot lead over Matthew NeSmith, and a three-shot lead over Justin Thomas and Sam Burns. Riley is at 18-under, NeSmith is at 16-under, and Thomas and Burns are at 15-under.
— Thomas and Burns each birdie the 616-yard, par-5 5th, and there are now three players — Thomas, Burns and NeSmith — two shots back of Riley.
— Riley wrecks on the 5th and falls out of the lead. He hits his drive left, goes even farther left on his second shot, chunks his third shot, takes an unplayable lie penalty, pitches over the green twice and makes a triple-bogey eight. NeSmith, Thomas and Burns are now tied for the lead, at 16-under. Riley is at 15-under, and Adam Hadwin is at 14-under.
— NeSmith bogeys the 446-yard, par-4 6th after hitting his tee shot very left, and he falls out of the lead. Thomas and Burns are at 16-under, Riley and NeSmith are at 15-under, and Hadwin is at 14-under.
— Thomas bogeys the 244-yard, par-3 8th after missing the green to the left on his tee shot, and he falls out of the lead. Burns is at 16-under, Thomas, Riley and NeSmith are at 15-under, and Hadwin is at 14-under.
— Riley chips in from just off the green on the 8th, and he jumps into a share of the lead. Riley and Burns are at 16-under, Thomas and NeSmith (who also birdied 8) are at 15-under, and Hadwin is at 14-under.
— Burns birdies the 572-yard, par-5 11th, and he takes the outright lead. He’s at 17-under, Riley is at 16-under, NeSmith is at 15-under, and Thomas (who bogeyed 11), Hadwin and Brian Harman are at 14-under.
— Riley birdies the 11th on a 5-foot putt to pull into a tie for the lead, then seconds later, Burns birdies the 365-yard, par-4 12th on a 15-foot putt. Burns is at 18-under, Riley is at 17-under, NeSmith is at 15-under, and Thomas, Hadwin, Harman and Xander Schauffele are at 14-under.
— Riley bogeys the 12th after hitting into the upslope of a greenside bunker, and he falls to 16-under. Burns is at 18-under, Riley is at 16-under, and Thomas and NeSmith are at 15-under.
— Thomas birdies the 581-yard, par-5 14th — his second-straight birdie — and he is two back. Burns is at 18-under, Thomas and Riley are at 16-under, and Harman and NeSmith are at 15-under.
— Burns rolls in a 9-foot bogey putt on the 198-yard, par-3 17th after hitting into the bunker on his tee shot, and his lead shrinks to one. He’s at 17-under, Thomas and Riley are at 16-under, and NeSmith is at 15-under.
— Riley and NeSmith birdie the 17th, and Riley pulls into a share of the lead. Burns and Riley are at 17-under, and Thomas and NeSmith are at 16-under.
— Burns pars the 419-yard, par-4 18th, and he finishes at 17-under. In the group behind, Riley hits his approach to 15 feet, but can’t birdie, and they go to a playoff.
— On the first playoff hole, back on the 18th, Burns hits his tee shot down the left side of the fairway, and Riley hits his into the right rough. On the second shots, Riley hits into a left greenside bunker, and Burns hits over the flag. On the third shots, Riley hits out of the sand to 2 feet, and Burns misses a 35-footer for birdie to the left of the hole. They both par.
— On the second playoff hole, the 463-yard, par-4 16th, Burns hits his tee shot into the left rough, and Riley hits his into the fairway. On the second shots, Burns hits to the left side of the green, and Riley hits just over the green. On the third shots, Burns drops a 32-footer for birdies, and Riley chips past the hole, and Burns is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour.
The final word
“Just tried to stay steady today. A lot of times on Sundays, if you just kind of plot your way around, make a bunch of pars, throw in a few birdies here and there, a lot of times it works well.” — Sam Burns on NBC