Eight times this season, Sam Burns has topped the leaderboard after every round, except that nothing happened. That changed, after all, to the Valspar Championship.
Burns got some help by hitting Keegan Bradley in the water at the 13th hole, and then the 24-year-old from Louisiana took it from there with two big birdies that led to a 3-under 68 and a three-shot victory on Sunday.
Burns won for the first time on the PGA Tour after converting to a 54-hole last time at the Houston Open in February and failing twice at the Genesis Invitational at the Generia Invitational.
This win takes him into the top 50 in the world and assures him of a chance at all US Open, as well as his first trip to the Masters spring.
When he tapped for a pointless bogey at the final hole, his wife, parents and other family members in particular put on the green to celebrate the moment with him.
“I’ve worked very hard for the moment,” Burns said. “They are all so abandoned.”
He had reason to believe that this moment might come soon. Snow ruined a good start to the season-opening Safeway Open. He closed with a 2-over 72 to tie for seventh place at the Houston Open. He lost a two-shot lead over the Riviera, falling one shot short of the playoffs.
“Those moments in the past, you really learn a lot,” Burns said. “After coming down the stretch this week, I tried to stick to our process.”
Bradley and Burns were tied through 36 holes and 54 holes, and they stayed that way through 12 holes on another blistering day at the Copperhead course. He turned with a swing.
Bradley came up well on par-3 13 and went into the water, causing a double bogey. Burns made the save with an 8-foot putt for a two-shot lead.
Burns was three shots ahead through 13 holes on Saturday and struggled to retain part of the lead, so he knew what was possible. However, this time Bradley had no chance.
Burns followed with a wedge that stopped next to the hole for a tap-in birdie on leg-5 14th. He placed Bradley 18 feet away with a 7-iron and a birdie put that brought the most emotion he had shown all day, a hard-fisted slam.
He had a four-shot lead with two holes to play, water and the worst threats behind him.
No one else had that much chance.
Max Homma tied for a while with a birdie on the par-5 opening hole. He did not make another birdie the rest of the day, missing several chances around the bend and ending with a double bogey at par-3 without submerging his hopes in the water. He shot 74.
Cameron Tringley was lean but never seriously challenged. He shot 68 and shared the third with Victor Hovland, who had a 65, but went too far at the start of the day.
Abraham Ansar (69) finished fifth.
Corey Connors of Listowel, Ont., Finished the weekend in an eight-way tie for 21st place after shooting 71 on Sunday. Fellow Canadian Michael Glijic of Bertlington, Ontario did a 2-under 69 and finished in a 10-way tie for 29th place.
Burns produced a quick two-shot lead to Font Nine Sunday. Bradley responded with a pair of birdies, and then made a 15-foot birdie put at number nine to take the one-shot back to nine.
The final round started capturing the par-5 11, both of them hitting wild tee shots and escaping the trees. Burns won the mosaic contest, taking a 15-foot lead for Burde, and tying for the lead. Bradley comes back with his double bogey and never gets caught.