PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) – Sam Burns thought all those close calls would eventually teach him how to win the PGA Tour.
Twice this season he had a 54 hole lead and failed to convert. Six other times he topped the standings at the end of a round, but never the one that mattered – Sunday.
That finally changed at the Valspar Championship. And the lesson was not what he expected.
“I’ve always felt like you had to play perfect golf to win,” Burns said after a 3-under-68 win for a three-shot win. “I always felt that you had to play your very best on Sunday to win. Those experiences made me realize that this is not the case. I was trying to do too much.”
He did just enough, and got some help from Keegan Bradley.
Bond for the lead with six holes to play, Bradley hit 8-iron short and into the water for a double bogey on the par-3 13th hole, and Burns put him away with two big birdies and a party he thought was the was a party. a long time to come.
Burns smiled all the way to the 18th hole with a four-shot lead, and he fought back tears when his wife, parents, and other family landed on the green after winning.
“I’ve been working so hard right now,” Burns said. “They have all sacrificed so much.”
The win takes him to No. 44 in the world and secures the 24-year-old from Louisiana all a place in the US Open, along with his maiden trip to the Masters next spring.
Bradley and Burns were tied by 36 holes and 54 holes, and they stayed that way through 12 holes on another sweltering day at the Copperhead course at Innisbrook.
That changed with one swing.
Bradley fell short on the par-3 13th and went into the water, which led to a double bogey. Burns saved par with an 8-foot putt for a two-shot lead.
“I just took a terrible shot,” Bradley said. “I hadn’t really taken a bad shot all week and of course you can’t hit it there, but you can’t hit it straight off the flag. And I just kind of got out, it was swallowed up by the wind. If it goes any other yard, it could have been in that bunker, but it was a bummer. “
Burns led three shots through 13 holes on Saturday and was struggling to keep some of the lead, so he knew what was possible. This time, however, Bradley had no chance.
Bradley had to be on the 5th of the rough on the 14th and Burns didn’t have time to think about his next shot. His caddy, Travis Perkins, chose him.
‘We walk to the ball and Travis says,’ Boom is in your way, we’re on the ground. And I’m like, ‘Well, what about this and that?’ And he said, ‘No, you got 180 to this number there, it’s a perfect 7-iron, this is your line,’ Burns said.
He wedged a lob wedge to a foot for a bird and was on his way.
“He knows I’m always trying to kick, and in that situation that just wasn’t the play,” Burns said. “He wouldn’t have done that a year ago and he would have today. And it is one of the reasons we were able to win today. “
He had reason to believe that this moment could have come earlier. Burns wasted a good start at the season-opening Safeway Open. He finished with a 2-over 72 and finished in seventh place in the Houston Open. He lost a two-shot lead at Riviera and came one shot short for a play-off.
“You really learn a lot from those moments in the past,” said Burns.
He put Bradley away with an 18-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole and a rare show of emotion, punching his fist after falling. He had a four-shot lead with two holes to play, the water and worst dangers behind him.
No one else had much of a chance.
Max Homa tied shortly before the lead with a birdie on the par-5 opening. He didn’t make another birdie for the rest of the day, missed several chances around the turn and ended his hopes with a double bogey on the par-3 15th without falling into the water. He shot 74.
Cameron Tringale was lurking but never seriously challenged. He shot 68 and shared third place with Viktor Hovland, who had a 65 but started too far back at the start of the day.
Abraham Ancer (69) finished fifth.
Burns built up a quick two-shot lead on Sunday, nine Sunday. Bradley answered with a few birdies, then made a 4.5-meter birdie putt from the edge at No. 9 to take a one-shot lead to the back nine.
Burns caught him with a birdie on the 11th. He wasn’t perfect for the rest of the day. He didn’t have to be to win.