Burns struggles to keep share of Valspar Championship lead with Bradley


Sam Burns had a three-shot lead with five holes to play Saturday and had to make an 8-foot bogey putt on the 18th hole just to keep a share of the lead with Keegan Bradley in the Valspar Championship.

Burns had two bogeys over the final three holes at Innisbrook, both from errant tee shots, and he did well to make sure his finish wasn’t worse. He had to two-putt from 75 feet on the final hole for bogey and a 2-under 69.

Bradley, who got back in the mix by chipping in for eagle, also bogeyed the 18th for a 69.

They were at 14-under 199, tying the 54-hole tournament record set by K.J. Choi in 2002 and matched by Adam Hadwin in 2017. Both Choi and Hadwin went on to win.

This was hardly a two-man race, not the way Max Homa finished. Homa ran in a birdie putt from just inside 30 feet on the 15th hole, and after a bogey on the tough 16th, he closed out his round of 66 by making a 35-foot bending birdie putt from the fringe on the 18th.

That makes seven putts from 25 feet or longer this week for Homa, and it left him only one shot out of the lead as he goes for his second PGA Tour victory this year.

‘You can make some bogeys quick’

Burns has at least a share of the 54-hole lead for the third time this season. He shot 2-over 72 in the Houston Open to tie for seventh, and his 2-under 69 at Riviera left him one shot out of a playoff at the Genesis Invitational won by Homa.

If the last hour was any indication, it doesn’t take much for the Copperhead course at Innisbrook to bite back.

“There’s some birdies out there,” Abraham Ancer said after his 66. “But this golf course, if you’re not in the right position, man, you can make some bogeys quick.”

And thanks to a few quick bogeys by the leaders, Ancer is suddenly back in the mix. He was in the group at 10-under 203, just four shots behind, that included Ted Potter Jr. (63), Joaquin Niemann (67) and Cameron Tringale (67).

Niemann began his week at Innisbrook in the same group as Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas, Nos. 1 and 2 in the world, who are no longer part of the equation.

Thomas had a 67 and was eight shots behind. Johnson took double bogey on the 16th and 18th holes for a 74 and will be out of town before the final group tees off.

Paul Casey’s bid for a third consecutive win at the Valspar Championship is gone, too. He shot 72 and was 12 shots out of the lead.

The top three all made eagle during a sweltering Saturday, all in different fashion.

It started with Burns, who sent a 3-hybrid soaring with such height that it pitched in front of the first hole and settled 30 inches away for a tap-in eagle. Burns also made a 35-foot birdie putt on the third hole and hit a tough bunker shot to 10 feet for birdie on the fifth.

Bradley could barely keep up with him. Turns out he didn’t need to do much. Burns didn’t make another birdie over the final 13 holes, losing a chance to at least keep his distance.

The lead was three shots when Bradley missed a par putt on the 13th hole. But on the par-5 14th, Bradley went for the green and came up short and to the right. He chipped in for eagle, and on the next hole, and two holes later, Burns bogeyed the 16th.

Homa made his eagle the hard way, holing out from 138 yards on the sixth hole, which only yielded eight birdies the entire round.

But he saved his best work for the long birdie putts, his strength all week.

Homa started the round four shots behind Burns and Bradley, and he fell seven shots back after the opening four holes. That didn’t bother him.

“I just knew if I posted 4 under-ish I would at least have a chance tomorrow, but that’s all you can do out here,” Homa said. “The moment you try to shoot 8 (under), you’re in trouble. So yeah, feels good to have a chance.”

Read more at CBC.ca