Sam Burns Wins the Valspar Championship

Sam Burns - Valspar Championship
Sam Burns watches his tee shot on the second hole during the final round of the Valspar Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Palm Harbor, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Sam Burns, one of our underdog picks at +8000 odds in the Valspar Championship at Innisbrook Resort in Palm Harbor, Florida, defeated veteran Keegan Bradley by three shots for his first PGA Tour victory. The 24-year-old out of LSU won $1,242,000, a two-year PGA Tour exemption, entry into the 2022 Master Tournament, and 500 FedEx Cup points that vaulted him into 13th place in the season-long standings.

He battled Bradley for two rounds, finally taking control when the 2011 PGA Championship winner dumped his tee shot into the water and took a double bogey on the par three 13th hole, after which Burns birdied the par five 14th hole to take a three-shot lead. When Bradley missed a chance to close the gap, missing a short par putt on the par three 15th hole, it was all but over.

The tournament, which was canceled in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic, was played in May for the first time after occupying a March date on the PGA Tour schedule since 2007. The different weather and course conditions produced record low scores for the event that historically played as one of the most difficult on Tour. 

Bradley set the early pace with a first-round seven under par 64 to take the lead, but Burns responded with an eight under par 63 of his own on Friday to tie him heading into the weekend, setting the stage for the head-to-head showdown. Both players shot two under par rounds of 69 and were again paired in the final group for Sunday’s deciding round.

This is Sam Burns’ first PGA Tour victory and he now sits at 13th in the FedEx Cup standings.

Notable Player Results at Innisbrook

Other players of note in the field included the top two players in the Official World Golf Rankings, Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas. Both made the cut, which fell at one under par, but neither one were in contention at any point during the tournament.

Johnson showed some promise with at three under par 68 in his second round, but a disappointing three over par 74 on Saturday ended any hope for a good finish, and he ended up tied for 48th. Players Champion Thomas fared somewhat better and had an outside chance to make some noise after a third-round 67, but he couldn’t get anything going on Sunday and ended up in a tie for 13th.

Viktor Hovland started the final round seven shots behind the leaders, but at one point on the back nine, he had pulled to within two shots of Burns. He fell back with a bogey on the 17th hole and had to settle for a tie for third with Cameron Tringale at 13 under par after a closing round of 65, the best of the day. 

Paul Casey, the winner of the past two Valspar Championships in 2018 and 2019, was going for a rare threepeat in the same event but was never in contention and finished in a 21st place tie with a score of five under par 279. Fifty-year-old Phil Mickelson, after battling back with five birdies to get inside the cut line, bogeyed two of his last three holes on Friday and failed to qualify for the weekend.

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