Sam Burns returns to Valspar Championship looking for a three-peat

PALM HARBOR — Sam Burns could be chasing history on the Copperhead Course at the Innisbrook Resort next month. Not only is it the site of his very first PGA Tour victory, but Burns has won the last two Valspar Championships here.

A three-time defending champion on tour has only happened a handful of times in the last 40 years, but that’s not what keeps bringing Burns back.

“I think that obviously there’s something about Tampa (Bay) and that golf course that I wish I could translate in every week, but there’s something I just love about that place and I look forward to come back every year,” Burns said Tuesday at the media day for the tournament.

Burns will head up a field that includes three-time majors champion Jordan Spieth. Former Valspar champion and current Ryder Cup captain Luke Donald will receive a sponsor’s exemption for the event, which kicks off March 16.

“We have been impacted some by changes in the golf world, but we are pleased with the way our field is developing,” tournament director Tracy West said.

The Valspar was not initially picked as one of the PGA Tour’s new “designated events” (17 total, with four spots rotating each year) — created in reaction to the rival LIV Golf tour — which have an enhanced prize purse to draw the top players.

Burns prevailed in the COVID-19 delayed Valspar Championship in May 2021. Last March he won the tournament in a dramatic two-hole playoff with Davis Riley. Burns buried a 32-foot, 6-inch putt for birdie on the treacherous par-4 16th.

That precise putting required is one reason Burns, ranked 15th on the tour, enjoys Copperhead.

“I think there was a couple of things,” Burns said. “Those are some of the best greens we’ll play all year. I love putting those greens. I think I love the golf course, too, because it’s a tricky golf course, but at the same time, it’s very rewarding for good shots.

“It’s a place where there are so many different options off tees and coming to the greens, different shots you can get. So I think I enjoy the creative side of playing the golf course. It’s a fun course to play. Very demanding.”

And it brings him back to Tampa Bay for another year.

“For me it goes back to, you know, my experiences there from playing golf and also relationships we’ve built through that event,” Burns said. “I would like to believe that I’m a man of my word and to be able to come back and support an event that has given me so much in my career, is honestly, it’s the least that I can do.”

Tournament highlights

The Valspar Championship will kick off Thursday, March 16 with a day honoring new Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronde Barber, who also is the general chair of the Copperhead Charities, which runs the event. Fans are encouraged to wear Bucs’ gear, and the first 5,000 will receive a Barber commemorative gift. A ceremony honoring him will be held after play concludes.

On Saturday, March 18, three-time GRAMMY winner Darius Rucker will perform for all ticketed fans.

And on the final day of the tournament, canned goods will be accepted and donated to Feeding Tampa Bay.

Valspar Championship

March 16-19, Innisbrook Copperhead Course, Palm Harbor

Gates open, 7 a.m.

TV: 2-6 p.m., March 16-17 and 1-3 p.m. March 18-19, Golf Channel; 3-6 p.m., March 18-19, NBC

More: Tickets and other info, visit here.