Of the final four players left in this week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, three clearly had bigger things to play for than the $3.5 million prize.
World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler was looking to further his dominance of the sport, defending his title from a year ago and winning his third Designated event of the season already. Rory McIlroy was looking for his first win on the PGA Tour in 2023 and to ask questions about his game heading into the Masters next month. Cam Young was looking for his first PGA Tour title to back up an impressive Rookie of the Year campaign a season ago.
But yet, it was Sam Burns, the No. 15 player in the world and 13th seed this week who emerged after a grind of a victorious seven-round tournament in the final edition of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
“What a week. I’m so tired,” Burns said after the round. “I could fall down on the ground and go to sleep right now. I’m exhausted.”
Burns defeated his close friend Scheffler in the morning’s semifinals in a marathon 21-hole match before putting on a clinic against Young in the finals, winning 6 and 5. The win is Burns’ fifth PGA Tour victory, and first since last May’s Charles Schwab Challenge, where he beat Scheffler in a playoff.
“I knew it was going to be tough against Scottie and kind of half way through the round just got a little lost out there,” Burns said. “[Caddie] Travis [Perkins] said, ‘Keep your head down, keep fighting.’ I was able to hit some really good shots and made that putt there on the 21st hole.”
In the final, the 26-year-old Louisiana native slowly built a 3 Up lead on the front nine by offsetting an early bogey on two with four birdies in the next six holes. He then made four more in a row to start the second nine to put it away, the defining moments coming when Young hit his approaches on the Par-5 12th and drivable par-4 13th in the water.
Burns actually caught a break on 12 when his tee shot grazed a spectator, started heading toward a grandstand, but then hit a post and came back toward the light rough. From there, his approach from 181 yards left him 22 feet, which he easily two-putted for a birdie to go five up.
He all-but clinched the match when his 3-wood on 13 settled just left of the green while Young’s came up short in the water. After Burns played his chip to inside two feet, Young conceded the birdie and the match when his third couldn’t get inside.
Young couldn’t muster the form that saw him roll through his first six matches, including the epic 19-holer against McIlroy in the morning. After making 38 birdies and four eagles before the finals, Young could only muster three birdies against Burns. It’s his sixth career runner-up finish.
“I didn’t quite have my best this afternoon and obviously Sam started making some putts, so that got away from me pretty quickly,” Young said. “But I played some really good golf and I think my game’s in a really nice place moving toward the Masters and Hilton Head.”
In the consolation match, McIlroy defeated Scheffler 2 and 1. He now moves to No. 2 in the world.
The final concludes the 24-year history of the only match-play event on the PGA Tour, which will not be brought back next season.