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Defending champ Sam Burns relishing Colonial return

Mar 26, 2023; Austin, Texas, USA; Sam Burns during the final day of the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play golf tournament. Mandatory Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Dustin Safranek-USA TODAY Sports

If there was a soft landing spot for Sam Burns after missing the cut at last week’s PGA Championship by nine shots, the Colonial Country Club would be it.

Not only is Burns the defending champion at this week’s Charles Schwab Challenge, but he also grew up coming to the event as a young fan. He particularly remembers several shots David Toms hit en route to his win at Colonial in 2011, and the two remain friends to this day.

“I think this event is extremely special to me just because I grew up going to this event as a kid and watching so many guys win here,” Burns said Wednesday. “I always thought it was such a cool golf course, and I always wanted to be a part of it. I just wanted to play in it.

“Then to have the chance to win and be able to do that, it means so much to me and still does. I think about this week often.”

Last year’s victory came in dramatic fashion — a playoff victory over then-Masters champ and good friend Scottie Scheffler. It was part of a run in which Burns reeled off two wins and a second-place finish in a six-event stretch.

In Burns’ typically streaky fashion, that stretch also included a pair of missed cuts.

He finds himself in somewhat of a similar pattern this year. Burns outlasted an elite field to win the Match Play event on the heels of a sixth-place finish at the Valspar Championship in March. Since then, he has gone T29, T15, T11 and had a pair of missed cuts, including last week’s PGA Championship, where he finished better than only 12 of the 156 players in the field.

Burns is seeing the silver lining, banking on the extra rest from missing the weekend at Oak Hill to help him navigate the comforting confines of Colonial. His tour experience is helping him flush the negative from last week and focus on his title defense.

“I love this golf course. It’s very similar to a golf course that I grew up on, kind of small, tree-lined. It’s very penal in certain spots,” he said.

“I think for me it almost — it kind of makes me focus a little more on the shots you’re trying to hit. I think I like that aspect of it. Just, I don’t know, I guess it fits my eye a little bit.”

Burns called Colonial a “classic golf course,” but insisted he’s not concerned about the massive $20 million renovation that will begin shortly after the final putt drops this week.

“I think the membership, from everyone I’ve talked to, is really excited about what they’re doing,” he said. “I’m really excited to see kind of how it unfolds.

“I know that they’re going to treat this place with care and not do anything to mess up what a great piece of property that they already have. So I’m really excited to see the changes that are going to be made.

Another one of the fun traditions at Colonial is that the winner also receives a restored classic car. Does Burns have any good stories from the 1979 custom-built Firebird Trans Am he drove away with last year?

“Yeah, maybe,” he grinned. “I’ll keep it to myself.”

–Field Level Media

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