03 May 2021: College golf in the USA continues to churn out champion golfers. Four years ago, Sam Burns was the top college golfer. He did not have to wait too long to claim his maiden PGA TOUR victory. The 24-year-old won a handsome three-stroke victory over the seasoned Keegan Bradley with a poised 68 on Sunday.
Burns was held back by an unseemly ankle injury, but has since experienced several good results this season. Five top tens and the victory at Valspar helped Burns move to 14th on the FedexCup Rankings, 510 points behind the leader, Justin Thomas.
Bradley, now a seven-time runner-up on the PGA TOUR, besides four victories, found water on the 13th hole opening a big door for Burns. The young man from Louisana made the most of the opportunity scoring two important birdies to steer clear of Bradley and clinch victory. It was relief for Burns who slipped up from 54-hole leads on Sunday at the Houston Open during the fall and then in the Genesis Invitational this February.
“You just hope and practice so hard to have that opportunity,” Burns said. “After I had the bunker shot on 18, I just got choked up thinking about that moment and thinking, ‘You wanted to have that opportunity so bad for so long and now you do.’ It was really special for me.”
The opportunity to play the US Open later this year and the Masters in 2022 will also do nicely for the ever improving resume of this young golfer, now inside the top 50 of the world.
Tears rolling down his cheeks, family and friends waiting on the edge of the 18th green, Burns knocked in for bogey to clinch a comfortable victory. “I’ve worked so hard for this moment,” Burns said. “They’ve all sacrificed so much.”
There was plenty of drama on Saturday and Sunday, as those in contention dwindled down to Bradley and Burns. The two men were tied for the lead at the end of the second and third rounds. They remained locked in a tense battle as they approached the 13th tee on the Copperhead course.
Bradley sailed short there, rolling into water enroute to an untimely double bogey at the par-3. Burns swung it in his favour with a steady eight footer to par and a two shot lead. He tapped in for birdie on the 14th to stretch his lead to three, but remained weary, having burnt a three-stroke advantage midway through the third round.
With only two holes left to play, the advantage was four strokes, which meant that the bogey on the last hole was inconsequential.
Max Homa came close, tying for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 first hole, but struggled through the rest of the day. He would not make another birdie though, missing several chances to forage further. A double bogey on the par-3 15th put paid to any lingering hopes as he came home to a sedate 74. He finished in T6 with Vaughn Taylor.
Viktor Hovland enjoyed a substantial final round 65, but he was riding the tail. His effort helped him secure a share of third with Cameron Tringale, who made 68. Abraham Ancer finished in fifth ahead of Homa and Taylor.