Sam Burns eagles early, grabs Genesis Invitational lead



LOS ANGELES — It seemed like Sam Burns shot himself out of a cannon off the famous elevated first tee at Riviera in Thursday’s Genesis Invitational first round, carding eagle on the majestic par-5, and he never looked back.

The 24-year-old Burns finished the day with a 7-under-par 64 to take a two-shot lead into Friday’s second round over Matthew Fitzpatrick.

“I got off to a hot start there at No. 1 with eagle on the first hole,’’ Burns said.

Before the tournament Nick Faldo, the CBS and Golf Channel analyst, picked Burns to win this week. When Burns was informed of that after his round, he said, “It’s a great compliment. Anytime a guy like that says you’re going to play well, it’s always a good sign, I guess.’’

Through one round, Willie Mack III is representing at the Genesis Invitational.

The 32-year-old Mack, a mini-tour journeyman who was the recipient of the tournament’s annual Charlie Sifford memorial exemption, posted a 1-under-par 70 Thursday in his second career PGA Tour event.

Since the inception of the Sifford exemption in 2009 (given to a promising minority golfer by the Tiger Woods Foundation), the only player to shoot a lower opening-round score than Mack was Harold Varner III, who shot 69 in 2014. Varner now is a member of the PGA Tour and he, too, shot 70 on Thursday.

Sam Burns

Just three Sifford exemption players have made the cut, which is low 65 scores and ties this week.

Mack, who’s won 65 times on mini-tours, said the largest check he ever won for a victory was $37,000. The winner this week gets $1.674 million.

Mack played the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines, getting a last-minute spot when fellow Advocates Pro Golf Association player Kamaiu Johnson tested positive for COVID-19, and missed the cut.

He said he doesn’t want to be perceived as a player simply happy to be in this elite PGA Tour field.

“I’m out here trying to win like everybody else,’’ he said, “I tee it up just like everybody else, so why not come out here and try to win?’’

Tae Hoon Kim aced the 168-yard 16th hole Thursday with a 7-iron and won a Genesis G-80 car. It was the third Genesis vehicle he’s won in the past two years. Kim won a GV-80 for capturing the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour last year, and he won a GV-70 for finishing atop the season-long points list on the Korean Tour.

Dustin Johnson, the reigning Masters champion and No. 1 ranked player in the world, shot 3-under Thursday, and lamented his putting and failure to take advantage of the par-5s as holding him back from an even lower round.

Defending champion Adam Scott shot a 2-under-par 69, saying Riviera is “a course I’m comfortable on so even hitting it poorly, I kind of feel like I know how to get it around”

“I putted very nicely,’’ he said. “It would have been nice to shoot a couple better, but I just didn’t hit enough good shots and it caught up with me with a few errors in the end.’’


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