PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. — By the time 21-year-old rookie Sam Burns finished his round Sunday at the Honda Classic, he had 448 text messages waiting for him on his phone.
Hello to playing with Tiger Woods.
“I don’t even remember feeling the club in my hands,” said Burns of his opening-hole tee shot. “It was like everything was numb. … It’s almost like I’m speechless. You see the guy on TV, you see him all over the place and you’re standing there next to him on the tee box and you're like, ‘That’s Tiger Woods.’ ”
And yet for the first time all week at PGA National, Burns, the 2017 college golf's player of the year who turned pro last summer after two seasons at LSU and earned playing status on the Web.com Tour during Qualifying School in December, found the fairway on first hole. He then stuck his approach shot to three feet and made the putt for birdie.
Two holes later, he made another, rolling in a six-footer on the par-5 third.
It helped that Woods chatted with Burns on the first tee and as the two made their way down the fairway, the ice broken for a player nearly half Woods' age.
“I was super excited,” said Burns, 13th on the Web.com Tour money list early in 2018 but playing this week on the PGA Tour thanks to a sponsor's exemption. “I knew it was going to be chaotic with all the people. It’s something I always wanted to do since I was a kid. Anybody my age, or any age, wants to play golf with Tiger Woods, much less Sunday at the Honda Classic. We had a blast and it was really fun.”
Burns handled it better than anyone could have imagined, going bogey-free and shooting a two-under 68 to Woods’ 70 .
“He played beautifully,” Woods said of Burns. “He’s trying to build momentum and build his exempt status. Today and this week was a big step for him.”
With Burns’ tie for eighth at two under for the week—two shots better than Woods—he earned a spot into the field (by virtue of the top-10 finish) at the Valspar Championship in two weeks as he tries to secure a PGA Tour card.
“It’s huge,” said Burns, who has up to three more sponsor's exemptions left on the PGA Tour this season after playing in the Sanderson Farms (T-43) and the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open (T-20) last fall, and the Farmers (MC) last month. “I'm just going to try to go out there and do the same thing I did this week and just get ready to play another golf tournament.
“If it happens that way, great. If it doesn’t, hopefully it will happen another way.”
No matter what happens, he’ll always have that time that he played alongside Woods and beat him.