PGA Tour: Sam Burns beats Davis Riley in Valspar Championship play-off to successfully defend title

Sam Burns birdied the second play-off hole to edge past Davis Riley in Florida and claim his third PGA Tour title in 12 months; Justin Thomas finished a shot back alongside Matthew NeSmith, with Matt Fitzpatrick in tied-fifth at the Valspar Championship

Last Updated: 20/03/22 11:04pm

Sam Burns successfully defended his title at the Valspar Championship

Sam Burns came through a final-round tussle with Justin Thomas and overcame a brilliant recovery from Davis Riley to successfully defend his title at the Valspar Championship.

Burns overturned a three-stroke deficit on a thrilling final day at the Innisbrook Resort in Florida, mixing three birdies with a lone bogey to sign for a two-under 69 and set the clubhouse target at 17 under.

The world No 17 was joined tied for the lead by overnight leader Riley, who bounced back from an early triple-bogey eight to salvage a one-over 72 and extend the contest, with Thomas finishing a shot off the pace in tied-third with Matthew NeSmith.

Justin Thomas is still without a PGA Tour victory since March 2021

Justin Thomas is still without a PGA Tour victory since March 2021

The players returned to the par-four 18th, where Riley splashed out of the greenside bunker to four feet and matched Burns’ par, before Burns holed a long-range birdie from the fringe at the second play-off hole – played on the par-four 16th – to snatch victory.

Burns’ win is his third in 12 months on the PGA Tour and is set to see him move inside the world’s top 10 for the first time in his career, with the success seeing him join Paul Casey as the only players to win back-to-back editions of the Valspar Championship.

Riley started the day two ahead but brought the chasing pack into the tournament by inexplicably triple-bogeying the par-five eighth, where the world No 399 had to take a penalty drop from an unplayable lie behind a tree.

Davis Riley fought back from a triple-bogey early in his round to post a one-over 72

Davis Riley fought back from a triple-bogey early in his round to post a one-over 72

Burns, playing in the group ahead, missed a six-foot birdie chance at the fourth but holed from a similar distance at the next to briefly jump ahead, while Riley pitched in from off the eighth green to reach the turn in a share of the lead.

NeSmith responded to back-to-back bogeys from the sixth by rolling in a 15-footer from the fringe to reach the turn one behind, as Burns grabbed the solo advantage with back-to-back birdies from the 11th.

Matthew NeSmith narrowly missed out on his maiden PGA Tour victory

Matthew NeSmith narrowly missed out on his maiden PGA Tour victory

Thomas had reached the turn in 36 and lost further ground with a double-bogey at the par-five 11th, only to make successive birdies from the 13th and find himself within one of the lead when Burns failed to get up and down from the sand at the par-three 17th.

Riley cancelled out a birdie at the 11th with a bogey at the next before converting from 12 feet at the 17th to pull level with Burns, while a two-putt par from 20 feet at the last enabled him to take the event to extra holes.

Thomas found the bunker off the final tee and was unable to reach the green in two, having to settle for a closing par, while NeSmith also finished a shot back after a final-round 71.

A three-under 68 lifted England’s Matt Fitzpatrick to tied-fifth with Brian Harman, while Brooks Koepka carded a round-of-the-day 65 to jump into a share of 12th that also included Shane Lowry, Alex Noren and Olympic gold medallist Xander Schauffele.

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What’s next?

There are two events on the PGA Tour this week, with the top 64 eligible players teeing it up at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play – starting on Wednesday – and others heading to the Dominican Republic for the Corales Puntacana Championship.

The two events are the last opportunity for players to break into the world’s top 50 and secure their invite to The Masters. For those not already qualified and still outside that mark when the rankings are released on Monday March 28, the only way to book a last-minute spot in the Augusta National field will be by winning the Valero Texas Open.

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