Sunday's golf: Burns pulls away at Innisbrook and claims first PGA title

Associated Press

Palm Harbor, Fla. — Eight times this season, Sam Burns has been atop the leaderboard after every round except the one that mattered. That changed, finally, at the Valspar Championship.

Burns got some help from Keegan Bradley hitting into the water on the 13th hole, and then the 24-year-old from Louisiana took it from there with two big birdies that led to a 3-under 68 and a three-shot victory Sunday.

Sam Burns, right, is congratulated by his caddie after putting on the 18th green to win the Valspar Championship golf tournament, Sunday, May 2, 2021, in Palm Harbor, Fla.

Burns won for the first time on the PGA Tour after twice failing to convert 54-hole leads in the Houston Open last fall and the Genesis Invitational at Riviera in February.

The victory moves him into the top 50 in the world and all but assures a spot in the U.S. Open, along with his first trip to the Masters next spring.

Burns was wiping away tears when he tapped in for a meaningless bogey on the final hole, especially to see his wife, parents and other family members pour onto the green to celebrate the moment with him.

“I've worked so hard for this moment,” Burns said. “They've all sacrificed so much.”

He had reason to believe this moment could have come sooner. Burns wasted a good start at the season-opening Safeway Open. He closed with a 2-over 72 to tie for seventh in the Houston Open. He lost a two-shot lead at Riviera, coming up one shot short of a playoff.

“Those moments in the past, you really learn a lot,” Burns said. “This week coming down the stretch, I tried to stick to our process.”

Bradley and Burns were tied through 36 holes and 54 holes, and they stayed that way through 12 holes on another blistering day at the Copperhead course. That changed with one swing.

Bradley came up well short on the par-3 13th and went into the water, leading to double bogey. Burns saved par with an 8-foot putt for a two-shot lead.

Burns was three shots ahead through 13 holes on Saturday and he struggled to retain a share of the lead, so he knew what was possible. This time, though, Bradley had no chance.

Burns followed with a wedge that stopped next to the hole for a tap-in birdie on the par-5 14th. He put Bradley away with a 7-iron to 18 feet and a birdie putt that brought the most emotion he showed all day, a hard fist slam.

He had a four-shot lead with two holes to play, the water and worst hazards behind him.

No one else had much of a chance.

Max Homa briefly tied for the lead with a birdie on the par-5 opening hole. He didn't make another birdie the rest of the day, missing several chances around the turn and ending his hopes with a double bogey on the par-3 15th without hitting into the water. He shot 74.

Cameron Tringale was lurking but never seriously challenged. He shot 68 and shared third with Viktor Hovland, whose had a 65 but started too far back at the start of the day.

Abraham Ancer (69) finished fifth.

Burns built a quick two-shot lead on the front nine Sunday. Bradley answered with a pair of birdies, and then made a 15-foot birdie putt from the fringe on No. 9 to take a one-shot lead to the back nine.

The final round started to take shape on the par-5 11th, both hitting wild tee shots and good escapes from the trees. Burns won the wedge contest, making a 15-footer for birdie, to tie for the lead. Bradley fell back with his double bogey and never caught up.

LPGA Tour

Singapore — Hyo Joo Kim shot a final-round 8-under 64 and then watched from the comfort of the clubhouse as Hannah Green bogeyed her final two holes to hand Kim a one-stroke victory Sunday in the LPGA's HSBC Women’s World Championship.

Hyo Joo Kim, of South Korea, watches her shot from the second tee during the final round of the Lotte Championship golf tournament Saturday, April 17, 2021, in Kapolei, Hawaii.

Kim sat in the dining room at Sentosa Golf Club and munched on some late afternoon snacks while watching Green take a one-stroke lead to the 17th. But Green three-putted the par-3 hole to leave Kim tied for the lead. Then the Australian bogeyed the 18th after she missed the green and a comeback putt for par after a poor chip.

Kim finished with a 72-hole total of 17-under 271. It was Kim's fourth LPGA title, including a major at the 2014 Evian Championship, and her first LPGA Tour win in five years.

Green’s 69 left her in second place. Three players were tied for third — Patty Tavatanakit shot 65 and third-round leader Lin Xiyu and world No. 2 Inbee Park had 70s to finish two strokes behind.

Kim's final round featured eight birdies, a major turnaround from her wild third round in which she had six birdies, six pars and six bogeys.

“Winning after such a long time, it feels like my first win of all," Kim said. “I thought everybody had the opportunity to win. I didn’t make any mistakes on the front nine, and as I went to the back nine, I felt I might be able to win it."

Kim did not play on the LPGA Tour in 2020 and remained in South Korea to play on the KLPGA tour. She played in 14 events and had two wins and six other top-10 finishes.

Green said her final three holes were a study in contrasts.

“Ï made a really good putt on 16 to make birdie, but obviously pretty disappointed to have two 3-putts finishing," said Green. “Ï felt a little nerves on the last, which is nice, because I guess having the spectators out there it kind of meant something to me.

“So I’m obviously very close, so I just hope that I can continue this momentum and who knows, have a good result next week.”

The LPGA Tour moves to Thailand next week for a tournament outside of Bangkok.

PGA Tour Champions

The Woodlands, Texas — Former Masters champion Mike Weir won his first PGA Tour Champions event when he held steady with pars down the stretch for a 4-under 68 and let John Daly made the last mistake in the Insperity Invitational.

Weir and Daly were tied going down the stretch at The Woodlands, which was reduced to 36 holes because of heavy rain earlier in the week.

Daly, playing in the group ahead of Weir, was posing over his 9-iron over the water to the 18th green when it came up a fraction short and splashed next to the bulkhead. He made double bogey for a 69 and had to settle for being a runner-up.

Weir, who missed birdie chances inside 10 feet on the 16th and 17th holes, watched it all unfold and knew what he had to do. He fired his approach to about 15 feet behind the hole, and pumped his fist as he walked toward the green. He wound up winning by two shots.

European Tour

Tenerife, Spain — Dean Burmester ended a four-year winless streak in style with a five-stroke victory at the Tenerife Open on Sunday.

The South African closed with a bogey-free 9-under 62 that left him at 25 under for the tournament and secured his first victory since the Tshwane Open in 2017.

The 31-year-old Burmester said it had been “four years of struggle, of hard work.”

Germany's Nicolai von Dellingshausen (68) was second.

Kalle Samooja of Finland and Adrian Meronk of Poland tied for third at 19 under, one stroke ahead of American John Catlin.

The European Tour stays in Spain for the Canary Islands Championship.