When Sam Burns saw he was paired with Tiger Woods for Sunday’s final round of the Honda Classic, he was speechless. He also hardly remembered hitting his first tee shots Sunday at PGA National.
“I kind of blacked out,” Burns said.
But it took just moments for Burns to get comfortable. After watching Woods tee off to begin his round, Burns took off toward the first fairway. He took just a few steps before turning around and putting his arm around Woods.
“Man, it’s crazy all these people came out to watch me today, isn’t it?” Burns quipped.
Burns, at 21 years old, certainly wasn’t intimidated. He proved it again with his play on Sunday.
The first-year pro, who turned pro after two seasons at LSU last August, didn’t make a bogey in his final round at PGA National and carded a 2-under 68 to best his 14-time major-winning playing competitor by two shots.
“To do it next to Tiger was really cool,” Burns said. “I didn’t want to go out there and shoot 80.”
More importantly, Burns finished T-8 and earned himself a spot in the next full-field PGA Tour event, the Valspar Championship in two weeks.
Burns has Web.com Tour status for this season and was T-2 in his last start at the Club Colombia Championship. In all, he’s made two of three cuts on the developmental tour this season. He’s been even better on the PGA Tour, making three of four cuts on sponsor invites, including a T-20 at the Shriners Open.
Already in good position at 13th on the Web.com Tour money list, Burns wouldn’t mind another strong showing in Tampa, which would move him closer to achieving special temporary status and in turn unlimited sponsor exemptions.
“Any start you can get out here helps,” Burns said. “… I’m looking forward to getting down to Tampa and teeing it up again.”
Burns, who likely could’ve played college football but gave up the sport as a teenager, is already quite the physical specimen at 6 feet, 1 inch, and 185 pounds. He was No. 1 as a junior golfer and in college golf. As a sophomore at LSU, he won five times and captured the Nicklaus Award.
However, he was snubbed from the U.S. Walker Cup team last year after waiting until the fall to turn pro in hopes of making the team.
Burns tweeted right after the team was selected last summer that he had “never been more motivated.” He again showed why he should’ve been picked this week at Honda.
Even Woods was impressed.
“He played beautifully,” Woods said. “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.”
After his round, Burns turned on his phone to 448 text messages. By the time he woke up Monday morning to prepare for the Seminole pro-member, he likely had many more.
He also woke up to some more good news. He is now ranked 388th in the Official World Golf Ranking – one spot ahead of, you guessed it, Tiger Woods.