Another week, another seven-stroke deficit erased, as Sam Burns came out of nowhere to grab the trophy at the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge. Firing a final round of 5-under 65 on a day when the scoring average at Colonial was nearly 3 over, the Louisiana native catapulted himself up the leaderboard and into a playoff with his good friend, Scottie Scheffler.
Punctuated by a dramatic birdie on the first playoff hole, Burns not only captured a tartan jacket and a custom '79 Firebird, but most importantly, his third victory of the season. For much of the day – heck, for much of the tournament – it was almost assumed Scheffler would gather his fifth victory in the last four months.
The Texan was unable to garner any momentum, however, and ultimately signed for a 2-over 72. Scheffler was lackadaisical at times – missing fairways, misjudging the wind and generally looking uncomfortable on the greens – but he still resisted the urge to give in. Ultimately, his poor play combined with the difficult conditions proved to be too much, as Burns pulled the rug right out from underneath him.
Burns' triumph at the Charles Schwab Challenge marks his fourth in his last 28 starts, and it is about time we stop treating him as an up-and-comer, but rather a star who is here to stay.
Comparisons are hard, but we are hardwired to make them as sports fans, writers, etc. Parallels between Jordan Spieth and Scheffler have been made ad nauseam, but oddly enough, it is Spieth's best friend on Tour, Justin Thomas, whom I find the most similar to Burns.
This isn't recency bias or an easy out after Thomas recovered from a seven-stroke deficit of his own last Sunday at the PGA Championship. But ask yourself this: are there two players on Tour who, when they're on, are hotter?
You could bucket Cameron Smith into the mix, but Burns has the capability to birdie every single hole when he is firing on all cylinders ... as does Thomas. Burns was a touted collegiate player out of the Southeastern Conference ... as was Thomas. Burns took the backseat to his good friend's rise to world No. 1 with everyone anointing him the next great ... as did Thomas.
Thomas arrived at the 2017 PGA Championship with his four victories on the PGA Tour coming over the course of 23 months. Burns will (likely) arrive at the U.S. Open with four victories in 13 months. The 25-year-old is a certified stud, a mainstay in the top 10 of the Official World Golf Rankings, and it's only a matter of time before he claims the title of major champion all for himself. Grade: A+
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge
2. Scottie Scheffler (-9): Hand up, I had partially written up Scheffler as your Charles Schwab Challenge winner. Despite his poor play, it just felt as if he would find a way to pull this thing out like all the great ones seem to do. It is not the playoff loss that will keep him up at night, but rather his round of 2-over 72, as just one stroke better would have given him the trophy. He is still the best player in the world, and that is exactly why it was assumed he would win after grabbing a share of the first-round lead. He has been catching breaks for the last four months, so maybe this is just the golf gods' way of spreading the love. Grade: A-
T4. Davis Riley (-7): If the playoff loss at the Valspar Championship felt like a bee sting, this one must have felt like a hornet's. Riley commanded the solo lead on the back nine after three birdies around the turn, but a short par miss on the par-3 13th was the beginning of the end. A double-bogey six soon followed, and with it his chances for his first PGA Tour title vanished. His last five starts read T4-T13-T9-5-T4. A battle with Cameron Young for Rookie of the Year will ensue over the next three months. Grade: A
T4. Tony Finau (-7): That may have been the quietest backdoor top-five finish of the year, but it marks a quality result for Finau, which have been hard to come by. The 32-year-old has been without a top 20 in a full-field event outside of his runner-up at the Mexico Open. Still, the ball-striking looked sharp, and now his short game is starting to come to his aid on a consistent basis. It couldn't happen at a better time, as the summer schedule is starting to heat up with the Memorial Tournament next week. In seven prior appearances, Finau has collected four top-15 finishes, so expect his good play to continue in Ohio. Grade: A-
T7. Jordan Spieth (-5): Nothing should surprise you when it comes to Spieth these days, but his final round may have been a perfect encapsulation of the state of his game; he carded six bogeys, six pars and six birdies. The Texan ranked in the top five in both strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained around the green, but lagged behind with his approach play and, as is typical, his putter. Spieth will not be satisfied with another top-10 finish at Colonial and will surely take the time to work on the flat stick before next week. The good news is that he has fared well at Muirfield Village in the past, having gained strokes on the greens in eight of 10 outings. Grade: B+