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Sam Burns seeking three-peat at Valspar Championship

4 Min Read

Stats Report

    Written by Justin Ray, @JustinRayGolf

    A four-time PGA TOUR winner at just 26 years old, Sam Burns is one of the most promising young players in the game today.

    Burns has been inside the top-15 of the Official World Golf Ranking for 52 consecutive weeks now. In his win last year at Colonial, Burns came from seven shots back on Sunday before beating Scottie Scheffler in a playoff with a 38-foot birdie putt. While he hasn’t quite flashed yet in the game’s biggest championships, he made the cut in each of the last three majors of 2022. He also made his first ever Presidents Cup team last year, helping the Americans knock off the International team at Quail Hollow Club.

    This week, Burns heads to the Copperhead Course as a back-to-back reigning champion this week. No player has won a PGA TOUR event three consecutive years in more than a decade. Can Burns break the drought this week in Florida?

    Seeking a ‘Three-Peat’

    First, let’s put into context how rare it is for a player to win any PGA TOUR event three years in a row. The last man to ‘three-peat’ on the PGA TOUR was Steve Stricker, doing it at the John Deere Classic in 2009, 2010 and 2011. There have been 13 players with an opportunity to match Stricker since then, with nobody yet pulling it off. The closest anyone got was Brooks Koepka, who finished runner-up at Pebble Beach in 2019 when seeking his third consecutive U.S. Open title.

    Going back to 1995, there have been 63 instances where a player won a PGA TOUR event in back-to-back years. Eleven times, the player didn’t get the opportunity for a third win in a row – either because they did not play in the event as back-to-back defending champion, or because the tournament was defunct. In the other 52 instances, the back-to-back winner rattled off a third (or fourth) consecutive victory in the event 10 times.

    A whopping eight of those wins belonged to Tiger Woods. The other two to do it are Stricker and Stuart Appleby, who won the Sentry Tournament of Champions in 2004, 2005 and 2006. To put it another way, Woods has played in 16 PGA TOUR events in his career in which he had won that event either the two or three previous years – he won eight of them. Everyone else on TOUR since 1995 combined has done it 36 times, winning twice.

    In the non-Woods division of this stat, even contending when seeking the rare three-peat is difficult to do. Besides the two men who won in their attempt, only three others finished in the top-five. Meanwhile, six of those players missed the cut. The last man to go for a three-peat in Tampa, Paul Casey, finished tied for 21st place back in 2021.

    Where Burns has thrived at Innisbrook

    Over the last two years, Burns has been very good in virtually all aspects of his game at Innisbrook – it’s tough to win here twice in a row with many deficiencies. But he’s been especially great at a few things – most notably on the greens.

    In his last eight rounds at the Valspar Championship, Burns has averaged 1.78 Strokes Gained: Putting per round, by far the best of any player in that span (min. 6 rounds played). Regardless of how far away he’s been from the cup, Burns has lit it up: he’s inside the top-ten in make percentage the last two years from both four to eight feet and ten to fifteen feet away. That’s been the strength of his game during his professional career. Since the beginning of 2019, Burns has averaged 0.54 Strokes Gained: Putting per round, fifth-best among the more than 200 players with 100 or more measured rounds in that span.

    Sam Burns at Valspar Championship - Last 2 Years
    SG: Putting per round1.781st
    Par 5 scoring-251st
    SG: Tee-to-green per round2.062nd
    SG: Approach per round1.344th
    Putting 4 to 8 feet82.6%7th

    While he hasn’t been otherworldly off the tee at this course (he’s gaining 0.16 strokes per round), his approach play has been excellent. Burns ranks in the top-15 among all players in greens in regulation and average proximity to the hole, adding up to 1.34 Strokes Gained: Approach per round (4th-best among all players). He’s also scrambled at a clip of 71.2%, able to limit the squares on the scorecard when missing the green. Burns is a combined 25-under-par on the par fives the last two years, four strokes better than any other player in that stretch.

    Fond of Florida

    It’s not just the greens at Innisbrook that Burns has found favorable: since joining the PGA TOUR, Burns is far and away the best putter in tournaments held in Florida. Since 2018, there are 186 players with 20 or more ShotLink-measured PGA TOUR rounds in the Sunshine State. Of that group, Burns’ average of 1.22 Strokes Gained: Putting per round isn’t just the best, it’s more than four-tenths of a stroke better per round than the nearest competitor.

    Burns will likely lean on his lethal putter again this week in hopes of picking up a rare tournament ‘three-peat’ on the PGA TOUR.