By Michael Johnson
By Sam Greenwood
Saturday after the third round of the Valspar Championship, co-leader Sam Burns was asked what he learned from his failure to convert a 54-hole lead at the Genesis Invitational in February—the second time he held a lead or co-lead after three rounds in his nascent PGA Tour career.
“I wouldn’t really say that was a failure,” said the 24-year-old Burns, who ended that streak by winning at Innisbrook Resort on Sunday. “For me, personally, I think every opportunity is something you can learn from. So, I think it’s not a matter of winning or losing, it’s a matter of going out there and seeing what the golf course is going to teach me that day.”
Whatever lesson he was being taught, Burns learned it well, following rounds of 67-63-69 with a solid six-birdie, three-bogey 68. His final round at the Copperhead Course came with several clutch shots, including a 9-iron on No. 2 to five feet that allowed him to start birdie-birdie on the round, and a 26-foot putt for birdie at the seventh. A 15-footer for another birdie at the 11th kept Burns locked in a battle with Keegan Bradley before a clutch eight-foot par-save putt on the 13th put him two in front after Bradley found the water on the par 3. Burns extended the lead with a kick-in birdie after a stellar approach on the par-5 14th and capped things off with another birdie at the 16th.
Although his ball-striking stats didn’t leap off the page, Burns did rank fifth in strokes gained/tee-to-green with his Callaway Mavrik driver and Callaway Apex TCB irons. Still, it was his work on the greens that stood out. Burns made putt after putt, not registering a three-putt all week and finishing first in strokes gained/putting with his Odyssey O-Works Black #7S putter, picking up more than nine strokes on the field on the greens.
Interestingly, Burns said Saturday night that he didn’t recall what his last win was. It’s sort of hard to believe considering it was the 2018 Savannah Golf Championship on what was then the Web.com Tour. That day, he birdied the final three holes to defeat Roberto Castro by a shot.
Perhaps birdieing three in a row to win on the developmental tour isn’t memorable, but there is no doubt Burns will remember this win for some time to come. And probably learned a little bit more along the way, too.
What Sam Burns had in the bag at the 2021 Valspar Championship:
Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft X 2020
Driver: Callaway Mavrik (TPT prototype), 10.5 degrees
5-wood: Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero, 17 degrees
Hybrid: Callaway Apex, 23 degrees
Irons (4-9): Callaway Apex TCB; (PW): Callaway Jaws MD5 Raw
Wedges: Callaway Jaws MD5 Raw (50, 56, 60 degrees)
Putter: Odyssey O-Works Black #7S