COMCAST BUSINESS TOP 10
Five things from Sanderson Farms ChampionshipSam Burns earns second PGA TOUR win after pulling away late in final round
October 04, 2021
By Jeff Eisenband, PGATOUR.COM
- October 04, 2021
Sam Burns’ winning highlights from Sanderson Farms
While Xander Schauffele finished off his last cigars, Harris English auditioned for Lee Corso’s job and Bryson DeChambeau launched drives into orbit, Sam Burns was busy winning his second PGA TOUR title at the Sanderson Farms Championship. The 25-year-old, who became somewhat notorious for a series of close calls before breaking through last season, continues to prove he can get the job done on Sundays. After this week, he is certainly not chicken (that’s a trophy joke).
Sergio Garcia, the only player from the previous week’s Ryder Cup who made the trip to Mississippi, missed the cut in his title defense at the Country Club of Jackson, but his good friend Nick Watney represented the 40-somethings well against a leaderboard chock full of promising young prospects. Sahith Theegala, the consensus college player of the year in 2020, claimed his first career top-10, as did Cameron Young and Hayden Buckley.
Here are five stories you might have missed from Mississippi:
Sam Burns Saves His Lead For Sunday
At No. 25 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Sam Burns came into this week as the top-ranked player in the field. He proceeded to deliver four rounds of 68 or better, including a 67 on Sunday, to win by one shot.
Burns began the fourth round as one of four players trailing Theegala by a shot. A 2-under front nine kept Burns in the mix and, after a birdie on 11, he made three straight birdies on Nos. 13-15 to pull to the front of the field.
Despite some fight from five-time PGA TOUR winner Nick Watney – who was seeking his first victory in nine years -- and rookie Cameron Young, Burns found himself needing just a bogey on 18 for the win. After finding a greenside bunker with his approach shot, Burns would two-putt for the win.
It’s time to start talking about Burns as a legitimate superstar. Last season, Burns posted eight top-10s, four top-3s and got his first win at the Valspar Championship. He was the TOUR’s leader in 36-hole leads (five) and tied with Jordan Spieth for 54-hole leads (four). His Sanderson win tied him atop the FedExCup standings with Fortinet champion Max Homa and moved Burns to a career-best 18th in the world ranking.
“I think last year, having those experiences around the lead, I think those were really important for me,” Burns said Sunday. “Having that under my belt today, that experience was definitely helpful, and coming down the stretch, I felt a lot different than I have in the past and not necessarily more confident, but just in a better state of mind.”
After last year’s Sanderson Farms Championship – a missed cut for Burns – he was ranked No. 168 in the world. His rapid rise in 2021 almost landed him on last week’s Ryder Cup team, making him one of the top candidates for U.S. Captain Steve Stricker’s half-dozen picks.
“I think getting the call from Stricker … and hearing the news that I didn't make the team was definitely very motivating and definitely kind of gut-wrenching,” Burns says. “I think it's definitely motivated me to try to be on the next team and continue to try to improve and hopefully be on it the next go.”
There is still a long way to go, but Burns jumped from No. 12 to No. 7 in the 2022 Presidents Cup standings.
A Shreveport, Louisiana, native, Burns grew up just two-and-a-half hours from the Country Club of Jackson. He also is an LSU alum, and lifting that rooster trophy was probably the best distraction for his friends and family in attendance after a Tigers loss to Auburn on Saturday night.
Sahith Theegala Backs Up Collegiate Stardom
Sahith Theegala reaches in two for birdie at Sanderson Farms
For three days, Sahith Theegala was the darling of the Country Club of Jackson. He opened with a 64 and followed with two 67s to hold at least a share of the lead through the first three rounds (despite a nasty lip-out on Saturday). He took a one-shot lead into Sunday, but the magic ran out as a 1-under 71 landed Theegala in a tie for eighth place at 19 under, three back of Burns.
Golf fans have been hearing about Theegala for a few years now. A three-time All-American at Pepperdine, he won the Haskins Award, Ben Hogan Award and Jack Nicklaus Award in 2020. Theegala was just the fifth player to sweep all three NCAA Division I postseason honors, following Hunter Mahan, Bill Haas, Ryan Moore and Patrick Rodgers.
This week, Theegala had just one bogey through his first 63 holes. However, on Sunday, he bogeyed Nos. 10, 11 and 13, dropping from 21 under to 18 under. He would recover with a birdie at 14, but pars on Nos. 15-18 would land Theegala with a T8 at 19 under.
“I think I know what I need to work on and what I need to do moving forward,” Theegala says. “I did so much good stuff this week and I’ll just try and build off the really good stuff and keep learning. A lot of it was mental today. It wasn't even my game at all.”
His Sanderson finish was Theegala’s third top-10 in his last four starts on both the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour. He closed the Korn Ferry Tour Finals with a T4 and sixth-place finish to earn his TOUR card. Those finishes came after switching to a longer driver at the second event of the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship.
“I got a new driver after I missed the first cut at (Korn Ferry Tour Finals), went to Ping, did a little bit of work there and they set me up with a new driver,” Theegala said in Mississippi. “It's a longer driver. I'm like, if I'm going to hit it off-line, I might as well hit it a little bit further and funny enough I'm hitting it way straighter.”
Theegala was originally supposed to play a Monday qualifier this afternoon, but now, the Chino Hills, California, native is into the field at the Shriners Children’s Open thanks to his top-10 finish. He can take his time traveling west.
Will Zalatoris Putts Up Course Record
For a few hours on Friday, it looked like Will Zalatoris was playing a different course. The reigning Rookie of the Year opened with a 2-under 70 before delivering an 61 on Friday, a course record at the Country Club of Jackson. Zalatoris’ bogey-free round featured six birdies on the front and five birdies on the back.
Much of Zalatoris’ magic came from the putter. Six of his 11 birdie putts were from 12 feet or farther, highlighted by a 26-foot make on No. 13.
“The days where I make 20-footers, those are the days that I end up putting a great round together, because I’m always going to be the guy that’s going to hit 14-plus greens to give myself chances,” Zalatoris said after the round. He’s no stranger to going low, as he’s shot 59 in multiple casual rounds, including once when he was just 17 years old.
The analytics agree. Zalatoris finished the 2021 PGA Tour season No. 7 in SG: Approach-the-Green, but 122nd in SG: Putting.
And the putter slowed down over the weekend. Zalatoris shot an even-par 72 on Saturday and a 4-under 68 on Sunday to finish T14 at 17 under. Along with his T11 finish at the season-opening Fortinet Championship, Zalatoris is off to a solid start in his first year as a full PGA TOUR member.
But Zalatoris did not end the week with Wake Forest bragging rights. His college teammate Cameron Young fired four rounds in the 60s to finish 21 under, tied with Nick Watney for second place.
Nick Watney Capitalizing On Last-Chance Season
In his prime, Nick Watney was a star on the PGA TOUR. He won five times from 2007-2012, reached No. 9 in the world and was part of the winning U.S. Presidents Cup Team in 2011. But now 40, Watney has been struggling. Last season, Watney made just six cuts in 25 starts, at one point missing 18 straight cuts. He finished No. 204 in the FedExCup, not even good enough to earn a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
But Watney had one last card to play. He could use a one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the career money list. Considering Watney finished last season at No. 50 on that list, this was likely his last opportunity to use the exemption.
Watney’s last-chance season is off to a red-hot start. After a T30 at the Fortinet Championship, he added a T2 at the Sanderson Farms Championship, capped off by a 7-under 65 on Sunday. Watney made seven putts from outside 10 feet as he rekindled some of his old form.
“The most satisfying part of it is just how I was mentally,” Watney says. “I was able to keep it to kind of one shot and not get too wrapped up in where I was or I was this many behind or whatever and that's probably the most satisfying part because I think the mental unlocks everything else.”
Not a bad week for the World No. 660.
A Gutsy T17 For Matthew Wolff
Making his season debut, Matthew Wolff looked like his stay in Jackson would be short, as he sat at 2 under overall through 13 holes on Friday. But Wolff finished on a heater, with birdies on 14, 15 and 18, the last one a 35-footer to make the cut on the number.
With new life, Wolff posted an early 65 on Saturday and came back with a 68 on Sunday. At 16-under, he finished T17. He was helped by a return to the irons he used last fall to finish second in both the U.S. Open and Shriners Children’s Open.
The Sanderson Farms Championship was Wolff’s first made cut since the World Golf Championships-FedEx St. Jude Invitational in early August. And it builds his confidence for his return to TPC Summerlin, where he shot a third-round 61 before losing a playoff to Martin Laird last year.
Wolff reached a career-high No. 12 in the world after last year’s Shriners Children’s Open. He is now No. 47.
COMCAST BUSINESS TOUR TOP 10
This week Name Points
T1. Sam Burns 500 T1.
Maverick McNealy 300
4. Nick Watney 269 5. Cameron Young
245 6. Mito Pereira 214 7. C.T. Pan 151 8. Si Woo Kim
141 T9. Talor Gooch 122.5
T9. Marc Leishman
The Comcast Business TOUR TOP 10 highlights and rewards the extraordinary level of play required to earn a spot in the TOP 10 at the conclusion of the FedExCup Regular Season as determined by the FedExCup standings. The competition recognizes and awards the most elite in golf.