X

Genesis Open 2021: Sam Burns Shoots Opening-Round 64, Leads by 2 Strokes

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistFebruary 19, 2021

Sam Burns tees off on the 13th hole during the first round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Thursday, Feb. 18, 2021, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Ryan Kang)
Ryan Kang/Associated Press

Sam Burns was on fire Thursday. 

The 24-year-old shot a seven-under 64 in the opening round of the Genesis Open in Pacific Palisades, California, opening up a two-stroke lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick and Max Homa. Eight other players settled in at four under.

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

1st in SG: Approach The Green 3rd in SG: Putting @SamBurns66 holds a 2 shot lead @TheGenesisInv. https://t.co/tKzB7HcWBt

Burns had two bogeys but made up for it with seven birdies and an eagle. The Louisiana native had an average driving distance of 250.5 yards, a 42.9 driving accuracy percentage, hit 72.2 percent of greens in regulation and gained an impressive 3.6 strokes putting, per PGATour.com

Burns has been playing well coming into the tournament, to the point that golf legend Nick Faldo picked him to win the tournament. 

"He's a ball-striker and this is a ball-striker's course," Faldo said while disclosing Burns as his pre-tournament pick, per Steve DiMeglio of USA Today. "He's played well lately, and yes, I picked him before the tournament started."

Burns was flattered. 

"It's a great compliment," he said of Faldo's prediction. "Anytime a guy like that says you're going to play well, it's always a good sign, I guess."

Overall, Burns was pleased with his start to the tournament and his overall approach:

"I think we were just pretty consistent throughout the round. We knew we were going to have a tough stretch there to kind of start the back nine. I think just being patient out here. This golf course at times doesn't offer you a lot of opportunities, so I think just with that mindset going in we were just going to kind of take what we could get."

Burns set the pace, but more than a few players provided some fantastic highlights on the day, including Tae Hoon Kim's ace:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

🚨 ACE! 🚨 Playing on a sponsors exemption, Tae Hoon Kim records a hole-in-one at 16! 😱 #QuickHits https://t.co/6zxwi9JWPk

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

A near ace on 16 for @JordanSpieth. 🎯 An opening round 3-under 68 has him T11 @TheGenesisInv. 💪 #QuickHits https://t.co/l3I09UEqxi

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

77 feet. 🐦 @BKoepka chips in and gets to 3-under. #QuickHits https://t.co/pYDs2qhcv6

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

Wedge game. ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ @DJohnsonPGA had this one dialed in. #QuickHits https://t.co/lSSd8RWmBv

And Willie Mack III—who was playing on an exemption and has grinded the mini-tour circuit to the point that he once slept in his car while doing so, all chasing his dream—had an excellent round, finishing one under:

PGA TOUR @PGATOUR

1-under in Round 1 for Willie Mack III. 💪 He’s just the third Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption recipient to open @TheGenesisInv under par. 👏 https://t.co/NURPh2Rx01

Other notable finishers on the day included Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth at three under, Adam Scott at two under, Jon Rahm and Rickie Fowler at one under, Bubba Watson at even par and Rory McIlroy at two over. 

They're all chasing Faldo's man, Burns, who will look to carry his fantastic first round into the weekend.