Suddenly, seven-stroke comeback victories have become all the rage on the PGA Tour.
Just one week after the second major of the season was captured in such a comeback, Sam Burns went low on a difficult Sunday at Colonial Country Club, forcing a playoff with world No. 1 and reigning Masters Champion Scottie Scheffler at the Charles Schwab Challenge.
After posting a 5-under 65 and then waiting more than two hours in the clubhouse, a dramatic 38-foot birdie putt from off the green on the first playoff hole gave Burns his fourth career PGA Tour title.
It was a worthy duo to need a playoff, given that the two had come into the week with a combined six victories on the season: four by Scheffler and two by Burns.
It looked very unlikely to begin the day, however, with Scheffler in the lead at 11-under-par. Burns was 17 positions back at 4 under.
Scheffler began the day with a two-stroke advantage on Scott Stallings and three-time PGA Tour winner Brendon Todd. The odds looked good that Scheffler would prevail yet again, in a season where he has often looked unstoppable.
Todd needed just two holes to close the lead, with birdies on 1 and 2 putting him into a co-lead at 11-under. Surprisingly, Todd would not birdie another hole the rest of the day. Even more surprisingly, Scheffler would not record a birdie in any of the 19 holes he played.
Coming out well before the leaders, Burns absolutely exploded out of the gate. He birded 1, 2, and 4. Then after a bogey on 5, he added two more birdies on 6 and 7 before notching another to go out in 30. He made himself relevant on the leaderboard, but there was a feeling that just did not have enough holes left to pull it off.
As Scheffler went out in just 1-over himself, keeping him tied with Todd at the turn, a number of other contenders emerged. Stallings stayed close; Tour rookie Davis Riley surged into the solo lead briefly when he got his round to 5-under through 11 holes. And then there was Harold Varner III, looking for his maiden Tour victory, just two back to start the day, who also got into a share of the lead early in the back nine.
Then, it seemed to become the tournament nobody wanted. Stallings bogeyed Nos. 12 and 14 and was never able to make those up. Riley chased a bogey on 13 with a double-bogey on 14. Scheffler and Todd had stagnated by that point.
Nobody hit the wall harder than Varner III, though. Waiting for a considerable time for Stallings, his Sunday playing partner, to get a ruling on the par-4 12th, Varner hit from a plugged lie in a greenside bunker to 19 feet. From there, he four-putted for triple-bogey. He then double-bogeyed the next hole, after hitting his tee shot into the water, and added another triple on the par-4 14th. Varner III, who held a share of the lead on 10-under par through 11 holes, had lost eight shots in three holes. He got one back with a birdie on the 15th but finished his final three holes par, double-bogey, bogey to fall into a tie for 27th on even-par 280.
Burns, meanwhile, was not tearing up the back nine the way he’d done on the front, but the 25-year-old was not making the mistakes that the others were in the leading pack. He nearly holed a long birdie putt on 18, but a tap-in par meant a Sunday 5-under 65 and the clubhouse lead on 9-under 271.
Scheffler made impressive par saves with clutch putts on 15, 17, and 18, but shockingly, could not find a birdie in the final round. It became a two-man playoff after Todd was unable to score birdie on 18.
In spite of all the time Burns was waiting, he needed just one extra hole to knock out Scheffler, who he called his “best friend.” Burns’ 38-foot left-to-right birdie putt hit the center of the hole. Needing to convert a 36-footer to extend the playoff, Scheffler left his ball mere inches to the right of the hole, resulting in a fourth career win for Burns.
For the final round, it was a 2-over 72 for Scheffler, with 16 pars to two bogeys. Todd shot a 1-over 71 to finish one back, with Riley, Stallings, and Tony Finau tied for fourth, two strokes out of the playoff.
2022 Charles Schwab Challenge Leaderboard
Pos-Player-To Par (Final Rd)
1. Sam Burns -9 (-5)
2. Scottie Scheffler -9 (+2)*
3. Brendon Todd -8 (+1)
4. Tony Finau -7 (-3)
4. Davis Riley -7 (-1)
4. Scott Stallings -7 (+2)
7. Kevin Na -5 (-1)
7. Jordan Spieth -5 (E)
7. Mito Pereira -5 (+1)
7. Patrick Reed -5 (+2)
7. Cam Davis -5 (+2)
* Lost in a playoff
21. Viktor Hovland -2 (+1)
23. Max Homa -1 (-2)
23. Daniel Berger -1 (-1)
23. Zach Johnson -1 (+1)
27. Webb Simpson E (+2)
27. Talor Gooch E (+2)
27. Harold Varner III E (+8)
35. Tommy Fleetwood +1 (-1)
40. Collin Morikawa +2 (+1)
40. Ian Poulter +2 (+2)
57. Rickie Fowler +5 (+5)
66. Charley Hoffman +7 (+8)
67. Jason Kokrak +8 (+2)
How Sam Burns Won The Charles Schwab Challenge
Burns said that he probably would have given himself about “a five-percent chance” to win at the beginning of Sunday but knew that with the difficult course he was not out of it if he could post something low. That is exactly what he did: he opened the week with a 1-over 71, and improved his score on each day, with a 68 in the second round, and a 67 in the third to keep his chances alive. Going so low on the front nine helped much further.
Burns’ 20 birdies led the field for the week, with 13 of those coming on the weekend. He would need all those birdies to offset the 11 bogeys he recorded on the week, which ranked T79. He was phenomenal with his putter on the field day, gaining 4.1 strokes on the field. He was sixth in that regard for the week, the same ranking he had in strokes gained: off-the-tee. He was ninth in strokes gained: tee-to-green, with 6.9 of his 7,4 strokes gained coming on the weekend.
Sam Burns’ Winning Numbers
Driving: 321.3 yards (6th)
Fairways: 53.57%, 30/56 (61st)
Greens: 66.67%, 48/72 (9th)
Putts/GIR: 1.667 (7th)
Sand Saves: 75%, 9/12 (16th)
Scores: 20 Birdies, 41 Pars, 11 Bogeys
Off the Tee: 2.852 (6th)
Around the Green: 3.881 (12th)
Putting: 5.033 (6th)
Tee to Green: 7.458 (9th)
Total: 12.491 (1st)
What Winning Means For Burns
The victory meant just a one spot rise in his world ranking, from 10th to 9th, but that position is a career high, and puts Burns into strong position to rise up even further in upcoming weeks. The man he jumped was Jordan Spieth, who despite a solid outing, shot even-par on Sunday to finish T7.
It was also just a one spot rise in the FedExCup standings, but starting the week in third, there was not much room to move up. Starting the week third, he passed reigning PLAYERS Cameron Smith into second. Burns does remain more than one-thousand points behind leader Scheffler, though.
Burns has yet to make a dent in any majors, with his T20 at last week’s PGA Championship his best in eight starts, and by a considerable margin. He will definitely be looked at as a threat to win one of the final two majors still to go on the season.
Burns’ 2022 PGA TOUR Season
Cuts Made: 10
Wins: 3 (Sanderson, Valspar, Schwab)
Additional Top 10s: 3
Money: $6,145,981 (3rd)
Points: 2,101 (2nd)
World Rank Before/After: 10/9
Sunday’s Stars at Colonial
Just one player in the field was able to match Burns’ 65 for the low round of Sunday: Danny Lee, whose bogey-free final round propelled him 42 spots from T65 to T23. The 31-year-old from New Zealand had one of the strangest scorecards of the week, with his second-round 64 tying Scott Stallings’ Friday for low round of the entire week, but he opened the week poorly, and shot a birdie-free 77 on Saturday to obliterate his chances. Lee led the field for the week in strokes gained: putting.
Similar to Burns, Tony Finau did very well with an earlier tee time on Sunday. A 3-under 67 while most of the rest of the leaderboard was struggling jumped him 13 spots from T17 to T4, and just two strokes out of the playoff. It was a second straight round of 67 for Finau, who surprisingly notched just his second top-10 of the season in 16 starts. He had no fewer than six top-10s in any of his previous five seasons.
Max Homa kept his spot securely in the top 10 of the FedExCup standings, shooting a 2-under 68 that moved him 27 spots up the leaderboard, from T50 to T23. It was Homa’s fourth consecutive top-25 finish.
Sunday’s Stumbles at the Charles Schwab
Coming off a T5 at the PGA Championship, Chris Kirk was again in good position through 54 holes, also tied for fifth, and just four strokes off the lead. However, Kirk was unable to get much of anything going after carding a birdie on the first hole, shooting a 4-over 74 to drop into a share of 15th place. It was his only over-par round of the week.
Having starred at the University of Texas, Beau Hossler was another favorite among the locals. The 27-year-old has yet to notch that difficult first career victory but entering the final round tied for ninth at 6-under, Hossler looked to at least record a high finish in what has been an up-and-down season. After three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine, Hossler finished the day with a 4-over 74 which dropped him to T21. It was an especially disappointing result for him given that he started the week 66-65 and was among the lead pack at halftime.
With ten bogeys in the final round, including six over his final seven holes, Sahith Theegala had a nightmare close to an otherwise promising week, shooting a 9-over 79, dropping a field-high 40 spots from T17 to T57. Theegala had not shot over par in any of the first three rounds, but as a Tour rookie, should still be encouraged to have made the cut in his last seven individual starts.
“I don’t even know. Just with the conditions today I was playing, I was just so proud of the way we hung in there. Played such a good round of golf today, and Travis [his caddie] did such good job keeping us in it, especially after I hit a foul ball on 12 and just killed our momentum. Just proud of the way we finished, and to make that putt… it was just icing on the cake.”
– Sam Burns, Charles Schwab Challenge Winner