Sam Burns rubber, but Jordan Spieth still in the hunt: Final Round preview of the AT&T Byron Nelson

Burns is looking to win back-to-back as he continues his sensational 2021 form.

At the start of the 2020/21 season 24-year-old Sam Burns was a tidy golfer all set for his third year on the PGA Tour.

Through the early months of the campaign he became a golfer who repeatedly threatened to win.

This Sunday he has a golden opportunity to become the first player since Camilo Villegas in 2008 to win his first two PGA Tour events in consecutive starts.

It's a brilliant tale of a player whose confidence has grown as he became more and more comfortable with the business of contending at the weekend.

He first grabbed a lead in the opening event of the season, going two clear at the halfway stage in the Safeway Open, put falling one back on Saturday before dropping to tied seventh on Sunday.

At the Houston Open he had another go, once again two clear after 36 holes, this time holding onto a one shot advantage after 54 holes, but a Sunday 72 saw him slip back to tied seventh again.

He continued to flirt with the top of the leaderboard after New Year, in San Diego and Scottsdale, before taking early control at Riviera in the Genesis Invitational.

An 18 hole two shot lead became five at halfway, dropped back to two after the third round, and he ended Sunday with a 69 - a better score, a more assured performance, but still one shot shy of the playoff.

So to the Valspar Championship at the start of this month. He tied the 36 and 54 hole leads - could he finally clear the final round hurdle?

His 3-under-par 68 answer was emphatic. The lessons were learned. He completed a three shot win.

And now he's at it again. He's carded rounds of 65-62-69 to total 20-under 196 at TPC Craig Ranch, good for a one shot lead in the AT&T Byron Nelson.

Korea's KH Lee trails him by one, with the quartet of Charl Schwartzel, Matt Kuchar, Alex Noren and Jordan Spieth three blows back on 17-under.

The scoring has been low all week, the course vulnerable to a field attacking it at every opportunity, but Burns is not only eyeing a second win for the year - he's also on the brink of a second win at the course having claimed victory in the second stage of Qualifying School there back in 2017.

He's best price 13/8 with Unibet to complete the win, but is it a good price?

Let's take a look at each of the leading contenders.

Sam Burns - 1st on 20-under (65-62-69)

A staggering month for the youngster, who surely could not have imagined at the end of April that he'd enter next week's PGA Championship spoken of as a contender and possibly a two-time tour winner.

After torching the course through 36 holes he got off to a sticky start on Saturday, making his first bogeys of the week on the front nine, but his growing composure was revealed in his calm response.

He ranks first for Strokes Gained Tee to Green (10.550) and seems to be getting to grips with when and where he can free his arms from the tee. His biggest drive on Thursday was 319 yards, he pushed that out to 329 on Friday and smashed one 364 yards on Saturday.

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He is 1-for-3 at converting 54 hole leads on the PGA Tour, but, as we've seen, he's done a lot of learning this year and he also claimed his only Korn Ferry Tour success off the back of a one shot third round lead.

KH Lee - 2nd on 19-under (65-65-67)

The 29-year-old is a two-time winner in both Korea and Japan, but a win at this level is new territory for him.

On the other hand, he is seeking to become the third Korean to win this tournament and, like Burns, he's been getting used to the business of being in contention.

He finished second at the Phoenix Open and made quick starts in The Heritage and Wells Fargo Championship, lying top 10 after 18 holes in both before falling backwards.

He's 1-for-5 at winning from second at this stage - the only time it happened on the PGA Tour, in the 2019 Honda Classic, he carded a 71 and dropped back to seventh.

Like Burns, he's excelling in SG Tee to Green (third, 8.587).

Charl Schwartzel - T3rd on 17-under (65-68-66)

Another with a strong long game (fourth for SG Tee to Green), the South African is hunting for a first PGA Tour title since he landed the 2016 Valspar Championship.

Will he need to buck a trend for the week and make an early move? He's yet to birdie any of the first four holes.

He's very experienced heading into the final lap in third. He's done it 14 times in his career, winning just the once in the 2007 Open de Espana.

His form has been trending. His last three individual results read T26th-T21st-T14th and he also lost a playoff with Louis Oosthuizen in the Zurich Classic during that run.

Matt Kuchar - T3rd on 17-under (67-66-66)

The veteran is chasing a 10th PGA Tour title and his first in 854 days.

He has his best day of the week tee to green on Saturday (gaining 3.227), but his worst on the putting surface (losing 0.102).

He's in neat form having finished third in the WGC Dell Match Play, T12th at the Texas Open and T18th in The Heritage in his last four starts.

He's 0-for-10 at claiming a win from third at the start of the final round on the PGA Tour, but he did win a KFT event from this position back in 2006. Five of his last six wins came with significant third round leads.

Jordan Spieth - T3rd on 17-under (63-70-66)

The first round thrill ride was somewhat unexpected after he had played so little golf following his brush with Covid, the fact that fatigue hit him on Friday somewhat less of a shock.

His bounce back on Saturday was impressive and is revealed in his SG Tee to Green numbers: 3.606 on Thursday, down to 1.856 on Friday, back up to 3.510 on Saturday.

His form is heading back towards his very best: he's landed seven top 15 finishes in his last eight starts, five of them top four including victory at the Texas Open.

This is a fourth attempt to win from third after three rounds. He's yet to win, but he did force a playoff at the 2013 Wyndham Championship. 13 of his 14 career wins came from the top two at this point.

Alex Noren - T3rd on 17-under (65-64-70)

An exception among the trailblazers because his strongest suit has been his putter, ranking third for Strokes Gained (5.672).

The Swede is looking to become the 12th international winner of the tournament and also claim a breakthrough on the circuit after notching 10 European Tour triumphs - he came close to a PGA Tour win when losing a playoff in the 2018 Farmers Insurance Open.

He's been third at this point four times in his career and never improved that position in the final lap, but his last three wins came from lying T4th, T21st and T7th after 54 holes. He knows hows to finish fast.

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He hasn't recorded a top 10 since August last year, however.


Brooks Koepka is the only winner in the 2020/21 season to come from more than three shots back with 18 holes to play (he was five adrift in the Phoenix Open).

Burns looks a strong favourite at 13/8 with Unibet, but who is the best of the rest?

The Betfair Sportbook prices Spieth 9/2, Lee 5/1, Schwartzel 10/1 and Kuchar 10/1.

What of their 14/1 for Noren?

He's the outsider of the bunch, partly because of his lack of form and also his 70 in round three.

But his history of sniffing a win and then going for it is strong. He turned a six shot deficit into a six shot win at the 2016 Nedbank Challenge, thrashed a 62 to claim the 2017 BMW PGA Championship, and won the 2018 Open de France from seven back.

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