Golf

Sam Burns: Everything You Need to Know About the Rising PGA Tour Star Who ‘Blacked Out’ the First Time He Played With Tiger Woods

Rising PGA Tour star Sam Burns may be a relative unknown to the casual golf fan but he’s certainly had the attention of his peers for quite some time and is truly making a name for himself this week with a dominating performance at The Genesis Invitational.

While many of the world’s top players, including Rory McIlroy, Justin Thomas, and Bryson DeChambeau, failed to make the weekend at famed Riviera Country Club, Burns fired rounds of 64 and 66 to take a five-shot lead into the weekend, putting him in prime position to notch his first win on the PGA Tour, a win that’s been in the works for quite some time.

Even Tiger Woods once remarked on the talent the former All-American possesses after playing with the youngster a few years back, an experience during which Burns said he “kind of blacked out,” and golf fans are finally getting to see that talent on full display.

So for those who may not be overly familiar with the budding star, here’s everything you need to know about Sam Burns.

Sam Burns won three state titles in high school and was an All-American at LSU

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, in July 1996, Sam Burns actually had dreams of playing football growing up as his father and older brother had both played at Louisiana Tech. But by the time he reached middle school, it became clear he was much more talented as a golfer than as a football player so he chose to go down that path, which was obviously the right choice.

Burns won three individual state titles in high school and was named the American Junior Golf Association Player of the Year in 2014. In 2015, the same year he enrolled at LSU, he made two starts on the PGA Tour and played his first major championship the following year at the U.S. Open.

As a sophomore for the Tigers in 2016-2017, Burns won four tournaments in 15 starts and was named a first-team All-American. He was also named the Jack Nicklaus Division I Player of the Year and earned a spot in the 2017 PGA Tour Barbasol Championship, where he shot 18-under and tied for sixth, the best finish by an amateur in the tournament’s history. Burns held off turning pro in order to compete in the Walker Cup but was stunningly snubbed from the U.S. team.

He turned pro soon after and in one of his first starts as a professional found himself playing alongside Tiger Woods, which turned out to be quite the special experience.

Sam Burns impressed Tiger Woods in their first round together

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As the winner of the Nicklaus Award, Sam Burns was given numerous exemptions on the PGA Tour for the 2017-2018 season, one of which came at the 2018 Honda Classic at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.

Burns played solid golf over the first three days, shooting 70-71-69 over the first three days to put himself within striking distance of the lead heading into Sunday’s final round. But besides the excitement of being in contention on the PGA Tour, that day was made all the more special by the fact that he was paired with Tiger Woods for the first time in his career.

Burns admitted he was nervous and said he “kind of blacked out” but he calmed himself and actually outplayed Woods that day, beating him by two shots to finish tied for eighth. He even got Tiger to laugh during the round, which is no easy feat. Following the round, Woods spoke very highly of his then-21-year-old playing partner (h/t Golf Channel).

“He played beautifully. Top-10 is big for him because it gets him into Tampa, next official start, full-field event. He’s trying to build momentum and build his exempt status. Today and this week was a big step for him.”

Tiger Woods on Sam Burns

Burns split the remainder of 2018 between the PGA Tour and Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) and won his first professional event at the latter’s Savannah Golf Championship en route to a second-place finish on the Web.com Tour’s regular-season money list, which earned him his PGA Tour card for the 2018-2019 season.

His stock continues to rise on the PGA Tour

PGA Tour star Sam Burns tees off at The Genesis Invitational
PGA Tour player Sam Burns | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Since gaining full-time status on the PGA Tour in 2018, Sam Burns has kept his card and has become one of the best young players in the game. He struggled a bit in 2019 but qualified for the FedEx Cup Playoffs for the first time in 2020. And he’s gotten off to a solid start in 2020-2021.

In the nine events in which Burns teed it up leading into The Genesis Invitational, he recorded four top-25 finishes, including two ties for seventh, and is on track to earn the first PGA Tour victory of his career this weekend…or maybe Monday depending on what the weather does at Riviera.