Sam Burns: Is he the forgotten man ahead of the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale?

The 25-year-old has been in sparkling form for the last 18 months but is not featuring in a lot of pre-tournament chat.

Lousiana's Sam Burns is a golfer flying under the radar.

Since the start of the 2020/21 season he has racked up 11 top 10 finishes and six times in that same period he has led a tournament at some stage during the week.

Last May that consistency took on a new hue: he started turning promise into success.

He won the Valspar Championship, he was second a week later in the Byron Nelson Championship, he was second again (after a play off) in the World Golf Championship St Jude Invitational, and he won the 2021/22 season-opening Sanderson Farms Championship.

Since missing the cut at last summer's US Open he has missed only one further weekend of golf and only twice, in 14 starts, has failed to finish in the top 20.

In this week's field, only the imposing trio of Patrick CantlayJon Rahm and Justin Thomas have a lower score average than Burns in the last six months.

He has risen from 147th in the world ahead of this tournament 12 months ago to 14th.

And yet to read much of the chatter ahead of this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open on the Stadium Course at TPC Scottsdale is to wonder if Burns is even playing.

It seems a little odd. Let's take a closer look at his case this week.

His form

Having started off the new campaign with that second win at this level, Burns added T14th at the Shriners Children's Open (third with 18 holes to play), fifth in The CJ CUP, seventh at the Houston Open and tied third in the Hero World Challenge.

Banging his fists on a third win, in other words.

This week's reticence is explained by what has happened since New Year.

But was it so bad? His debut at Plantation in the Sentry Tournament of Champions started with a 72 for T29th in the elite field but he bounced back with 64-68-69 for T19th.

And he might have missed the cut at Torrey Pines in the Farmers Insurance Open, but his record there is not great and he did manage a 67 (on the easier North Course) for tied ninth after 18 holes.

A little rusty, maybe, but far from proof that the form of the last 18 months has gone up in smoke.

Course record

Ah, yes. He opened his tournament log book with a pair of missed cuts in 2019 and 2020.

But a year ago he opened the week with a 64 for tied third and added a 68 to lie tied fourth before weekend laps of 73-68 pushed him back to T22nd.

But get this stat from last year -

What did he think of the challenge then?

Burns on TPC Scottsdale last year

"I think we had a good strategy. It started with getting the ball in the right position off the tee, and fortunately we were able to attack from there and able to convert on the putts.

"I think you have to pick and choose around this place. You get a little wind, some tucked pins, you can get yourself in kind of a tough situation around the greens.

"I think just managing the golf course, attacking when you have good numbers to good pins. I think that's kind of key around here."

Conclusion

Okay, there are some doubts about his case.

But the "bad" is far from outrageous while his base level over the last six to eight months has been really quite excellent.

Don't discount another bold showing from the 25-year-old.

READ MORE: Brooks Koepka: Defending the WM Phoenix Open title and needing another Scottsdale career boost

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