Sam Burns wins the Valspar Championship again, but this time with more stress and more emotion.
Burns made a birdie from just over 30ft on the 16th hole to defeat Davis Riley on the second playoff. This gave him three PGA Tour wins in his 22 previous starts.
Burns closed the tournament with a 2-under-69 and is now the second consecutive back-to-back Innisbrook winner, following Paul Casey’s wins in 2018 & 2019. Due to the pandemic, the tournament was cancelled in 2020.
Burns is now No. The world’s No. 10 ranking, knocking Dustin Johnson from the top 10 for only the second time in seven years.
Burns stated, “Man, it is crazy.” “Davis played very well today, particularly the way he ended. I tried to keep my composure. I made very few mistakes. It took me a lot of time to plan my route, score a lot of pars and make some birdies. You are so happy.
Burns was victorious last year by three shots.
Riley, a rookie competing on the PGA Tour for the first-time, overcome a triple bogey at the par-5 fifth green and a clutch 5-iron to make birdie at the par-3 17th. For the win, he had a 15-foot birdie shot on the 18th. He left it out to his right and closed with a 72.
Both pars were made on the 18th, with Riley saving par from the front bunker. Both were in a poor birdie position on 16th, until Burns’ putt caught left edge and went 180° around the cup before landing in the backside.
Riley pitched a strong pitch and needed to hole it in order to extend the playoff. He missed too long.
Justin Thomas (70), and Matthew NeSmith (71) both finished one shot from the playoff. Each had a share at some point during a tight final round in warm and windy conditions on Copperhead’s Copperhead course.
Thomas was just one yard from the lead after he fell 54 yards short of the par-5 11th. The wedge went into the light rough and settled in a small hole. He took bogey at No. 1 hole because his chip was 12 feet from the hole.
Thomas was suddenly four shots behind after Burns putted a 15-foot birdie. To stay alive, he had two straight birdies and was still in the game when Burns made bogey on the 17th. Thomas missed the green after hitting his tee shot right into a bunker slope.
Thomas’ fourth top 10 was in this sixth start.
Thomas stated, “I didn’t do much today and I could have easily won the tournament.” Thomas said, “It was a good drive on 18 and I have a wedge in my hand and could be in the playoff just as easily.” There are a lot of positives to go on, and there is a huge stretch ahead, so I’m looking forward to it.
NeSmith was unable to recover from consecutive bogeys on the back nine. He was one shot behind the 10th tee and didn’t make birdie until the 17th with his 12-foot putt. To join the playoff, he had a 35-foot putt on the fringe. It just missed the hole.
These were the only four people who stood a chance of winning.
Riley hadn’t been in contention on the back 9 on the PGA Tour, so it looked like he wouldn’t make it to Innisbrook. He opened with a two shot lead and had four solid pars. But the par-5 fifth proved to be a nightmare.
He started from the fairway to the left, but he continued down the sixth fairway. His third shot was 106 yards away from the tree. He was penalized for hitting into the rough too hard, and he chipped in the rough again to make triple bogey.
He remained calm with a 50-foot birdie from the fringe on No. The race was won by 8 and a 7-foot par putt on ninth.