LAS VEGAS – Sam Burns is in position to join some elite company.
After winning the Sanderson Farms Championship last week in his first start of the season, Burns is cooking again in the Nevada desert as he sits just two shots behind in the Shriners Children’s Open at TPC Summerlin through 54 holes.
If he were to polish off his third career win on Sunday, Burns would put his name alongside that of Tiger Woods, who is the last player to win his first two starts of the season on the PGA Tour.
Woods began his 2008 campaign by winning the Buick Invitational and the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship. In fact, Woods was victorious in his first three starts on the PGA Tour that year, adding the Arnold Palmer Invitational in his third start. Further, with his win in the Dubai Desert Classic on the European Tour, he won his first four starts of the year. As a reminder, he also won his last start of 2008 when he captured the U.S. Open on a broken leg and trashed knee before surgery ended his season.
Woods also did it in 2000. Ernie Els, David Duval and Ben Hogan are among others who also have won their first two starts of the season on the PGA Tour.
Adam Schenk, ranked 207th in the world and looking for his first title on the PGA Tour, finished with three birdies on the final four holes to shoot 5-under-par 66 to grab a one-shot lead at 18 under. Matthew Wolff, who lost in a playoff here last year, shot 65 to move to 17 under. Burns is 16 under, joined there by Andrew Putnam (66) and Chad Ramey (69).
There are eight players within four shots of the lead.
Burns has shot 66-63-68 and is now 38 under through seven rounds this season. Burns took a two-shot lead Saturday when he birdied the 11th – his fourth red number in five holes – but missed birdie chances from 6 and 8 feet on holes 13 and 15 and dumped his approach into the water on the easy par-5 16th and made bogey. He gave his final 15-footer for birdie a good run on the last, too.
Visibly frustrated after the round, Burns still knows he came from behind in the last round last week to win.
“I feel like the game’s in a good spot, so go out there tomorrow and see what happens,” said Burns, who has jumped 150 spots in the world rankings this year and is currently 18th.
Burns said he won’t think about the back nine overnight. He’ll be thinking about his first tee shot.
“I just think late in the day the greens, they’re not quite rolling as well as they were early in the day, so hopefully those will go in tomorrow,” he said about a few putts on the back nine that rimmed edges.
Wolff is now 11-for-11 in posting rounds in the 60s at TPC Summerlin. In his Shriners debut in 2020, he shot 67-69-68-65 to tie for 12th. Last year, he shot 68-66-61-66 and lost in a playoff to Martin Laird. This year, he’s posted 64-67-65.
Wolff came storming home in the third round, making his first birdie of the day on the ninth hole. But then he birdied 11, 13 and 15 before knocking in a 7-footer for eagle on the 16th.
“I’m not really sure what it’s going to take tomorrow. But I know that if I keep on doing what I’m doing I’m sure I’m going to like where I end up at the end of the week,” Wolff said. “But there’s a bunch of really good players at the top of the leaderboard. Sam Burns came off a win last week, so he’s playing really solid and can close the deal. But seems like a lot of those players are PGA Tour winners, so I think it’s going to be a really good test tomorrow. I don’t know how the conditions are going to be, but I’m just really looking forward to having a good time.”
Schenk is not a PGA Tour winner, but he’s played like one with rounds of 64-65-66. His two best finishes on the PGA Tour have come this year – he tied for fourth in the John Deere Classic and finished fourth in the Barbasol Championship.
“I haven’t been in this situation a lot. I started to play a lot better towards the end of last year, but just keep doing the same things I’ve been doing. I mean you’re going to have to shoot a low score tomorrow,” Schenk said. “I think the weather’s going to be pretty scorable like it was today. If it gets a little windy and firm and crusty in the afternoon, but someone’s going to shoot low and hopefully it’s going to be me. It’s not like I can go out and shoot even par and win, so that helps with the mindset of what I have to do.”