Sam Burns demonstrated his ice-cool composure for the third time within 12 months, as he successfully defended his Valspar Championship title.
The 25-year-old American is in red-hot form currently, having picked up three PGA Tour victories within the last year, and looks to upset the usual suspects at the first major championship of the season in two weeks.
Due to The Players Championship’s late finish, Paul Casey (two-time champion of the Valspar) pulled out prior to the first day, which would have encouraged those remaining in the field.
Low Scoring Start
Burns, who fell short at Sawgrass after a troubling final round, put that previous misery far behind him as he opened with 64 and co-led the field alongside three others during the first round.
David Lipsky, Adam Hadwin and Jhonattan Vegas all had a share of the lead whilst Davis Riley, looking for his maiden tour title, was one back after a promising 65.
The second day resulted in the course record being matched, as Matthew NeSmith blitzed his way to an astonishing 61.
That round would prove to be four strokes better than anyone else on Friday, as Brandon Wu (65) and eight other players carded 66 – including Hadwin, who had supported his opening 64 marvelously.
Martin Kaymer had produced two scores in the sixties and was looking to contend, but his disappointing weekend saw him tumble down the leaderboard, eventually finishing T48.
Moving day ignited a select few golfers, with Riley notching birdies at every opportunity as he carded 62 with just 18 left to play.
Robert Streb, Alex Noren and Tyler Duncan all experienced excellent afternoons (65), whilst Thomas had finished his round with a 66 for the third consecutive day.
Prior to the leading groups teeing off in Tampa, it looked likely that either Riley or NeSmith would record their debut PGA Tour wins.
Earlier in the day, Brooks Koepka – who had been rather anonymous during the tournament – produced the best round, carding 65 on his way to a T12 finish.
Sahith Theegala, the nearly-man from the Phoenix Open, demonstrated that he too has what it takes, as he plotted his way to a final round 67 – which emulated his Saturday score.
Ironically, the leading pack had played so effortlessly across the previous three days but they failed to mirror the same rhythm on Sunday.
Burns was steady throughout the day, only dropping a shot on the par-3 17th, but his inability to take care of all the par-5s resulted in a two-under finale.
At one stage, Riley looked to be the comfortable victor until an unpredictable triple-bogey on the par-5 6th issued the chasing pack hope.
In fairness to the young American, he battled valiantly after dropping three shots and finished his round at two-under from there, but his overall score of 72 meant a playoff was needed to separate the top two.
After both Burns and Riley parred the opening playoff hole (18th), the duo marched towards the notoriously difficult 16th hole.
Previously, both players had parred the 16th during their fourth rounds but there was much more riding on this one.
Burns’ approach found the fringe of the green, leaving a relatively lengthy putt to the hole. Riley, on the other hand, had missed his target and was nestled in the rough to the left of the flag.
Rather remarkably, Burns had sunk his long-range effort to crank the pressure on his competitor, whose chip had narrowly missed the hole.
The 25-year-old became a three-time winner on the PGA Tour and he now must be targeting Augusta for further glory.
Next up is the World Golf Championship Match Play and you can read our preview here.