AUSTIN, Texas — The last time Sam Burns won a PGA Tour event he had to stave off one of his best buddies to do so, using a birdie on the first extra hole of a playoff to beat Scottie Scheffler in the 2022 Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth.
If Burns is going to add to his win total, he’ll have to knock off Scheffler one more time, again in a Texas pressure cooker.
Burns and Scheffler each scored a pair of victories during Saturday’s action at the final WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and the two good friends will meet up in Sunday’s semifinals at Austin Country Club.
In last year’s playoff, Burns buried a 38-foot putt from off the green to edge his friend and claim the title. And even though the two play a lot of golf, have recently been pickleball teammates, and even sometimes stay together on the road, they’ll both be ready to come out firing on Sunday morning.
“We want to beat each other as bad as anybody, if not more,” Burns said of his relationship with Scheffler. “Obviously, when we tee it up, it’ll be business, and after we’ll give a hug to each other and congratulate whoever wins.”
On Saturday, Burns opened with a 2-and-1 victory over Patrick Cantlay and then followed by beating Canadian Mackenzie Hughes 3 and 2, even though he was 2 down through two holes.
“That’s kind of the nature of match play,” Burns said. “You just kind of have to weather the storm sometimes, and he got off to a fantastic start there birdieing the first two holes, and we just kind of kept scratching and clawing and got ourselves back in it. I hit a lot of really good shots today and was able to come out on the good side.”
Although Burns is still among the world’s elite, he’s slipped to No. 15 in the Official World Golf Ranking and all the way down to 25th in the Golfweek/Sagarin rankings. That’s a far cry from a year ago when he was in the top 10 of both rankings. Burns has a pair of top-6 finishes in his last five starts, but also uncharacteristically missed consecutive cuts at the Genesis and Arnold Palmer Invitational.
But the four-time PGA Tour winner feels he’s rounding into shape at a good time, with the large purse this week just two rounds ahead of him and major season fast approaching.
“I think my coach Brad Pullin and I have worked really hard on my golf swing the last few weeks, and for us, it’s just trying to stack one good swing after another, and not really look too far in the future,” Burns said. “I think we’ve put a lot of hard work in, and it’s nice to see it showing on the golf course.”
Scheffler, who is notoriously competitive, said he sees the same in Burns, with whom he spends plenty of time. The two players enjoy each other’s company and their wives are even friends.
“He is pretty competitive,” Scheffler said of Burns. “I’ve been taking him on my team in pickleball recently. Usually, when he gets on the other team I’ll beat him pretty handily in that one, so pickleball for me is not much of a challenge. The match tomorrow is going to be a lot harder than me beating him in pickleball.
“He’s a fantastic person and he’s a great golfer, and I like him because he’s a person, great guy. We have a lot of fun together.”
In the other match, Cameron Young and Rory McIlroy will battle for a spot in the final.