OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. — Sam Burns, battling for a spot in the Tour Championship and still in the running for the U.S. Ryder Cup team, tied Max Homa’s day-old course record of eight-under 62 on Saturday at Olympia Fields Country Club. He attributed the brilliant bogey-free effort, following two rather mediocre days at the BMW Championship, to that most elementary of factors.
“Golf. Pretty simple as that. It’s a hard, hard game. It can really beat you up at times,” said Burns, who won the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in March but has posted just one top-10 finish since.
Burns, 27, entered the week No. 30 in FedEx Cup points, the exact cutoff for the Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta. He was tied for 33rd at one-over 141 and 32nd in the standings when he began the third round on the North Course, but moved up the leaderboard methodically as his putter, a source of frustration just a week ago at the FedEx St. Jude Championship, came alive.
The Louisiana native needed just 26 putts on Saturday—same as Homa the day before—and also kept his card clean by holing out from a greenside bunker at the par-3 13th hole for birdie. “Yeah, to be honest, it was pretty easy,” he said of the splash out that bounced in the cup from 26 feet. “It was on the upslope. Had enough green, a little back into the wind. Just had to clip it, and I did.”
At seven-under 203, Burns had moved up 27 places to T-6 when he holed out for par on 18 after missing a 38-footer for birdie that would have given him the course record.
“I didn’t want to tie him [Homa], I wanted to beat him. But I’ll take it,” said Burns, who admitted that much of his season has been frustrating at times.
“I told Travis [Perkins, his caddie] and our team, I was like, ‘I just want to come out here and play a confident round of golf, whether that’s 72 or whatever it was today. I just want to go out there and play with confidence, play free, and see what happens,’” he said.
Ranked 22nd in the world, Burns sits 12th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings but can still jump into the top six and earn an automatic spot on Zach Johnson’s team. Certainly, a strong finish, plus another at East Lake, could prompt Johnson to make him one of Johnson’s six wildcard picks on Aug. 29 if he falls shy of the top six.
“A lot of it’s out of my control,” he said, though a lot appears very much in his control. “The only thing I can do is go out there and play hard and compete. At the end of the day, whatever happens, I can be OK with it.
“At the end of the day, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to make the Ryder Cup. I want nothing more. But that’s a goal that’s kind of different than coming out here and playing golf. I think for me just trying to put a good game plan together and just try and execute.”