AUSTIN, Texas — Earlier this month, the USGA and R&A announced plans to reduce distance at the game’s elite levels, using the golf ball to do so. Sam Burns was among the PGA Tour players to show their displeasure, the former Louisiana State star saying the move was “silly,” and insisting that fans come out to see players unleash massive drives.
“At the end of the day no matter what it is, we’re an entertainment sport and I don’t think people necessarily want to come out here and watch guys hit it shorter,” Burns said. “They enjoy watching guys go out there and hit it 350 yards.”
But what’s that phrase about driving for show and … putting like Sam Burns?
During the final playing of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club, Rory McIlroy wowed patrons with his booming driver, knocking more than a dozen drives over 350 yards.
And Burns? He didn’t see McIlroy’s gun show. He was too busy winning.
Using a white-hot putter that seemed to sink every big putt along the way, Burns rallied to take down his friend Scottie Scheffler in a scintillating semifinal matchup, then scorched his way past Cameron Young in the final, 6 and 5, to capture the title.
Burns, whose last victory came in Texas at the Charles Schwab Challenge last May, made 47 birdies along the way in an impressive showing.
In the semifinal, Burns held a 1-up lead heading into the 18th hole, and then nearly holed out a chip to close out Scheffler. But he then missed an 11-footer that would have closed out the reigning champ and Scheffler stepped up and buried a putt from just inside five feet to get the match square.
Scheffler appeared to have a line to win on the second extra hole, but missed a short putt that kept the match going. On the 21st hole of the day, Burns finally beat his friend with a curling 15-footer.
In the final, Burns got 1 down after the second hole, but that putter got hot again, and he used a wild run of long putts — including a 20-footer on No. 8, a 12-footer on No. 10 and a 24-footer on No. 12 —. All told, Burns made eight birdies in the last 10 holes, closing out Young on the 13th hole.
“My putter was really good today,” Burns said. “I’ve been putting it well all week and I knew that if we could just get the ball in position, give ourselves lots of chances, hopefully they would go in.”
Burns is now just one of six players with five victories in the last three years, joining McIlroy, Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay, Jon Rahm and Max Homa. Still, he had been unhappy with his play leading up to this week.
“Professional golf is hard. It’s not easy at times and I’ve been really struggling with my golf swing,” Burns said. “I just didn’t quite have the command that I wanted. Wasn’t able to hit some of the shots that I usually am able to. So a huge thank you to my coach Brad, he’s just been rock solid and helped me a lot.”
Meanwhile, Young knew he’d run into a buzzsaw in Burns, but was happy with his performance in his debut at the event. Young is in a similar position to the one Scheffler was 18 months ago, as the former Wake Forest star has been a runner-up six times in 37 PGA Tour starts.
“All I can take away is that I played really well. Just thankful to get myself all the way here,” Young said. “I feel like I had a bunch of really tough opponents and just ran into Sam Burns playing really well today. We all know he’s one of the best players in the world, and when he’s on top of it, he might be the best player in the world. Today he was against me. It was a lot of fun. I enjoyed it. I’m playing really well, so I’m just looking forward to the next few weeks.”
In the consolation match, McIlroy edged Scheffler, 2 and 1.