Sam Burns cruises to WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play win
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Survived perilous semifinal against Scottie Scheffler before thumping Cameron Young
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
Sam Burns defeats Cam Young to claim victory at WGC-Dell Match Play
AUSTIN, Texas – Sam Burns came into the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play without much fanfare.
That’s kind of his thing.
Burns has had the same coach, Brad Pullin, for years, and lives a quiet life with his wife, Caroline, in tiny Choudrant, Louisiana, where they moved into a new house late last year. He was not featured in the Netflix docuseries “Full Swing” and won’t be in the second season, either. In a sense, then, he was right in his element, even if he’d never played here before.
Amid the usual chaos of the WGC-Dell Match Play, Burns was the picture of tranquility and deadeye putting as he beat Cameron Young, 6 and 5, for the title at Austin Country Club on Sunday. The champion hugged Caroline on the 13th green as his beaming parents, Todd and Beth, looked on before an armada of party barges on Lake Austin.
“I feel like I gained a little bit more confidence as each match went on,” Burns said.
Rory McIlroy beat Scottie Scheffler, 2 and 1, in the consolation match.
Five of the top six seeds made the knockout rounds, one reason why no one was paying much attention to Burns. So sleepy was his season that finishing sixth at the Valspar Championship, which he’d won twice, counted as a highlight. He cited a driver change – his old one was deemed non-conforming – and his work with coach Pullin for his turnaround.
Playing for a newly designed trophy here, he fell behind early in the championship match when Young birdied the second hole. But Burns found another gear, making eight birdies in a stretch of 10 holes to close out the victory.
“There might not have been anyone beating him today,” said Young, last year’s PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year, who notched his sixth runner-up finish and is still looking for his first win.
Added Burns, “I've been kind of fighting my golf swing a little bit at the start of this four-week stretch that I've been on. I put a lot of hard work in with my coach, Brad Pullin, and I'm just so thankful for him and the amount of work that he's put in with me and been there by my side for all of it. There are so many people that have helped me along the way.”
Sam Burns’ news conference after winning WGC-Dell Match Play
It was the fifth PGA TOUR victory for Burns, who came into the week languishing at 52nd in the FedExCup but caught fire here with 48 birdies and only 10 bogeys and one double bogey.
Still, he looked iffy to reach the Championship match as he fell 2-down with six to go in his Sunday morning Semifinal against pal Scottie Scheffler. Burns fought back and took a 1-up lead to the 18th hole, but Scheffler birdied it to force a playoff. Again, Burns looked to be on his way out with Scheffler eying a 4-foot birdie putt on the second extra hole.
Surprisingly, Scheffler missed, and Burns birdied the third extra hole to win it.
“He gave me a gift there,” Burns said.
Sam Burns vs. Scottie Scheffler highlights from WGC-Dell Match Play
It was in that match, Burns admitted, that he needed a pep talk from his caddie, Travis Perkins.
“This week is as mentally exhausting as it is physically,” Burns said. “I think after 10 holes this morning, my caddie, Travis, kind of gave me a good kick in the butt and said, ‘Come on man, let's go, you got this.’ And I really needed it at the time.
“Man, he was rock solid all week,” Burns continued. “I couldn't have done it without him.”
Like Burns, Young briefly looked destined for the consolation match. He was 2-down to McIlroy with three to play, but birdied 16 and 18, then birdied the first playoff hole, the par-5 12th, to prevail.
The favorites were out, clearing the way for the Cam-and-Sam show. Just 43 people, or .11% of brackets, predicted a Burns-Young final. Amazingly, this was Burns’ tournament debut, and while the Match Play has historically taken some time for players to figure out – Geoff Ogilvy in 2006 was last to win it in his first try – Burns took to it quickly.
Now he moves to eighth in the FedExCup and 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking. He’ll come into his next start with little fanfare, same as always, but his clubs are starting to make some noise.
Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.