Sam Burns holed a spectacular off-green birdie putt to secure a dramatic playoff victory over world number one Scottie Scheffler at the Charles Schwab Challenge, in Texas, on Sunday.
Despite starting the final day seven shots behind the year’s most in-form player, Burns carded a joint round-best five-under par 65 to set the clubhouse target at nine under.
While Burns waited, heavy winds that had plagued players at Colonial Country Club all weekend intensified, as Scheffler – having carded 66, 65, 68 through the opening three days – closed with a two-over 72 to set up a playoff with his American compatriot.
Almost two hours after finishing up at the par four 18th, Burns found the same hole once again courtesy of a stunning 38-foot birdie putt from off the green.
Scheffler’s failure to replicate the 25-year-old’s long-range effort meant that, almost as soon as he had left, Burns was returning to the clubhouse donning his victor’s tartan jacket.
Burns’ third PGA Tour victory of the season, after wins at the Sanderson Farms Championship and the Valspar Championship in October and March respectively, places him second in the FedExCup rankings behind Scheffler.
Scheffler’s four wins in 10 tournament starts, including a famous victory at April’s Masters, have seen a player Burns regards as his “best friend” rocket to the sport’s summit in 2022. Yet despite the pair’s bond, allegiances end at the tee.
Narrow defeat spoiled what had been an impressive bounce-back for Scheffler after the disappointment of missing the cut at the PGA Championship in May.
“I can assure you he (Scheffler) wanted to beat me more than anybody else and I wanted to beat him more than anybody else,” Burns told reporters at his winner’s press conference.
“It’s going to be a fun story that we’ll get to have for the rest of our careers. Fortunately, I got the better end of it this time but hopefully we’re in many of these situations in the future.”
Afforded the time to rest, warm up in the gym, and squeeze in some practice while heavy winds wreaked havoc on those still finishing their final rounds, Burns admitted he sympathized with those forced to battle the elements.
“I did not envy them,” he said. “Not that it didn’t feel like it was blowing any less when we were out there.
“The thing a lot of people don’t understand is the putting is just as difficult. You see guys missing these short putts and it’s not that they’re nervous, it’s just it’s that hard when the wind’s blowing 30mph – it’s moving those golf balls on the green.”
The flipside, of course, was managing the tension of watching the rest of the field finish. Having initially expected 10-under to be the benchmark, it could have been a nervous wait for an exhausted Burns, but the world number nine was in it for the long game.
A string of Americans followed Burns and Scheffler in the leaderboard, with Brendon Todd agonizingly missing out on the playoff by a single shot, on eight-under.
“Mentally I was prepared to go as long as it took,” Burns said. “I don’t know if I could have done it physically but mentally, I was ready.
“It’s just one of those things – you don’t know if you’re getting the opportunity, but when coach calls your name you’ve got to be ready to play.”