Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley head into final day as Valspar leaders

Sam Burns, Keegan Bradley head into final day as Valspar leaders
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Mari Faiello, Tampa Bay Times
·3 min read
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PALM HARBOR — Sam Burns was steady, especially on the front nine, during Saturday’s third round of the Valspar Championship. Unfortunately for him, his final few holes were shaky.

An eagle on the par-5 first hole at the Innisbrook Resort’s Copperhead Course gave Burns a one-shot advantage over his second-round co-leader, Keegan Bradley, who birdied the hole. Burns extended his lead to two shots after birdie on No. 3, and it increased to three after Bradley bogeyed No. 13.

But Bradley answered with a chip-in eagle on the par-5 14th, cutting the deficit to one.

Burns then bogeyed two of the last three holes — his firsts of the tournament — and Bradley bogeyed the 18th, giving both 2-under 69 for the day to remain tied atop the leaderboard heading into Sunday’s final round.

Bradley and Burns are at 14-under 199, tying the 54-hole tournament record set by K.J. Choi in 2002 and Adam Hadwin in 2017. But Max Homa shot 5-under 66 and is only one shot back.

“I got off to a great start,” said Burns, who nearly began his round with an albatross on the first hole, his second shot landing about 30 inches from the hole for an easy eagle. “That shot in there on (No.) 1 was kind of a bonus, just kind of trying to get that ball back there where Keegan was and fortunately ended up perfect.”

While Bradley didn’t go as low Saturday as he did in each of his first two rounds — 7 under and 5 under, respectively — he said he still thought he put together a solid day.

“I just didn’t hole the putts that I’ve been making the first two rounds,” he said. “But without doing that, I still shot 69 and I’m still tied for the lead, so all good.”

Bradley thought his eagle on 14 was “lucky” after a “terrible second shot.”

“It just gave me a little bolt of energy, which was fun,” he said of his 34-foot chip-in. “It’s so great to have the fans out here, you can feel it again, and it’s a fun time to be out here playing.”

Ted Potter Jr. put together eight birdies en route to the low round of the day, 8-under 63, to move into fourth place, four shots back and tied with Abraham Ancer (66), Joaquin Niemann (67) and Cameron Tringale (67) at 203.

Nine players are within six shots of the lead going into Sunday, including two-time Masters champion Bubba Watson (68—205).

Bradley’s most recent victory on the PGA Tour was the 2018 BMW Championship, which snapped a six-year winless drought. Burns, who turned pro in 2018, is still seeking his first tour win, though he has been in the hunt this year with four top-10 finishes. This is the third time this season that the 24-year-old has held at least a share of the lead going into the final round.

“I know I can do it,” said Bradley, 34, who has four tour wins. “I know I’ve been up here and won some big tournaments in my career, and I feel like if I go out Sunday and stick to my process, I can have a chance coming down the end.”

Only six times since 2000 has the Valspar champion won by three or more strokes. Twice it has been by two, nine times by a single stroke and three times in a playoff.

The lowest score for the tournament champion was in 2004, when Vijay Singh won by five strokes, finishing with 18-under 266.