Sam Burns joins cavalcade of Colonial champions, winning 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge in playoff

FORT WORTH, Texas — Players at Colonial Country Club are greeted by the Wall of Champions as they step onto the first tee. You’ll be quick to spot the names of golf legends like Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Arnold Palmer and Ben Hogan on the list of players who mastered the 1936 Perry Maxwell design at least once in their professional careers. 

Sam Burns is the latest set to have his name etched on that wall — a custom 1979 Pontiac Firebird and a $1.5 million paycheck also in hand — after coming back from down seven strokes to win the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge in a sudden-death playoff against world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler. It came just a week after Justin Thomas used the same unlikely but successful formula to win the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills.  

Burns, sitting at 4 under after three rounds, teed off 85 minutes before Scheffler hit the course as the 54-hole leader. With 90 minutes before a playoff eventually ensued, DataGolf gave Burns less than a 10% chance at victory. But Burns’ starting position ultimately became an advantage as he was able to card a 5-under 65 while those involved in the final tee times saw Colonial’s teeth at full force with winds gusting up to 32 mph during their round.

When Scheffler and Burns arrived at the green of the par-4 18th for the first playoff hole, Burns still had more magic left in the bag despite that extensive cool-down period. Burns, after hitting his approach just long, sunk a 38-foot birdie putt from off the back of the green while Scheffler scored par, giving Burns his fourth PGA Tour win in his last 28 starts. 

“I figured with how tough it was going to be playing, that if I went out and posted a really good number, [anything] can happen,” Burns said. “Scottie has been playing unbelievable. I mean, it’s just a really hard golf course with a lot of wind and crazy things happen, and fortunately, I was able to sneak into a playoff and obviously make that putt there on the 18th.” 

In doing so, Burns denied Scheffler, who entered Sunday with a two stroke lead, of what would have been an eye-popping fifth win this season before June 1. No golfer has accomplished that feat since Tom Watson in 1980, though Scheffler appeared poised to end that drought.

But the Charles Schwab Challenge was certainly that — a challenge — as blustery conditions made for the highest-scoring event at Colonial since Adam Scott won at 9 under in 2014. Those winds subsided briefly Friday to provide for prime scoring conditions, but low rounds came at premium for much of the tournament in which mother nature was most disruptive the final two days.

Numbers in the red were few and far between for those who entered Saturday in contention. Eight of the 10 players across the day’s final five groupings shot above par in the third round. Only Scheffler was under par within that group Saturday after dazzling with several shots on and around the greens, including a downhill 30-foot birdie on the par-4 18th.

“It’s tough when the wind gets blowing that hard,” Scheffler said of the greens Saturday. “Like on [the 18th], I’m putting downhill but straight into the wind. And depending on what kind of gust I get, it’s going to move that ball around on the green a lot.”

Scheffler proved somewhat prophetic come Sunday as the conditions and scoring trends from Saturday persisted, sometimes enough to generate carnage near or at the top of the leaderboard. Sunday marked the first time Scheffler played a round without carding a birdie in 2022, though it wasn’t without a series of key par putts to stay in contention despite a 2-over 72.

Burns echoed Scheffler’s comments on the challenges of the greens after emerging as the winner.

“You see these guys missing these short putts … it’s not that they’re nervous,” Burns said. “It’s just hard when the wind is blowing 30 miles an hour. It’s moving those golf balls on the green. That’s the most difficult part – just because you’re lying up there in two strokes and have [a 3-foot putt], it’s not just going up there and brushing it in. It’s going to have your full attention.”

Just ask Harold Varner III, who stepped on the 12th tee sharing the lead at 10 under. Varner triple-bogeyed that hole after four-putting within 16 feet. It was the first of four holes which Varner carded double-bogey or worse across the final seven holes as a back-nine 45 sunk him from contention to a T27 finish at even par in the blink of an eye.

Varner wasn’t alone in seeing things slip away quickly, either. Rookie Riley Davis took the outright lead at 11-under after six birdies in his first 11 holes only to give back a stroke with a bogey on the par-3 13th before an out-of-bounds tee shot on the par-4 14th led to a double-bogey that dropped him out of the lead for good. Davis salvaged a 1-under 69 for a T4 finish, but it was a disappointing one at that.

By then, Burns knew sharing a meal with his family members in the Colonial clubhouse was the safest place he could be before he hit the practice area as a playoff seemed imminent. Burns almost didn’t even need that playoff for his triumph as Scheffler drained a 6-foot par putt on the 72nd hole, anything but a gimme, to force the playoff. 

“I can assure you I did not envy them while they were out there playing [after I finished],” Burns said. “Not that it was — [it] didn’t feel like it was blowing any less than we were out there. It was just one of those things when you finally finish, you’re just ready to be done. But at the same time, [I] kind of thought maybe [I] could sneak into a playoff. [I] I thought [10 under] was going to be the number but it ended up being [9 under].” 

Burns made the most of that opportunity in becoming the newest winner at the longest-running active stop on the PGA Tour calendar. And with the spoils of winning at Colonial comes only increased momentum and confidence for the 25-year-old entering the summer months that include majors with the U.S. Open at Brookline and the The Open Championship at St. Andrew’s. 

The latest go around at Colonial is one in which the event often did feel like a major by the way of many top names succumbing to challenging conditions. And Burns, despite that, was able to stand tall at the end. 

“It felt like somewhat of a major championship-type conditions where you’re just going to have those stretches where it’s really hard,” Burns said. “But the way that we were able to just get the ball in position and get it around here in 5 under today, I thought [that] was a really good score.” 


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