Sam Burns’ Masters debut a predictable struggle

NOT PICTURE PERFECT: Sam Burns’ tee shot on the iconic 16th hole at Augusta National found a sand trap Thursday and led to his final bogey in the Shreveport native’s first competitive round at the Masters.

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

More than any other tournament in professional golf, outside of a few examples, experience is a prerequisite for success at The Masters. That’s just the way it usually is.

A look at the names on the leaderboard following Thursday’s first round at Augusta National Golf Club prove this once again.

Leader Sungae Im (5 under) finished tied for second in 2020 with Cameron Smith, who sits one stroke behind Im after Thursday. A trio of former champions (Danny Willett and Dustin Johnson, third; Tiger Woods, 10th) reside in the Top 10 after 18 holes.

Shreveport native Sam Burns, one of the hottest players on the planet in the past 10 months, entered Thursday without a competitive round in The Masters. His struggle shouldn’t come as a surprise.

The former Calvary Baptist Academy and LSU star was 1-under through three holes in his competitive debut at Augusta National, but a bogey on No. 4 and a double bogey on No. 5 derailed his afternoon en route to a 3-over 75.

Burns’ home course, Squire Creek Country Club, in Choudrant has similar characteristics as Augusta — wide fairways, significant elevation changes, sidehill lies all over, and extremely undulating greens, but there’s just no substitute for the real thing.

Hey, Woods’ first trips around the historic venue didn’t exactly paint a picture of what was to come. Woods didn’t break par in any round during his 1995 debut. He missed the cut in 1996 and shot 40 on his opening nine holes in 1997. Of course, he then torched Augusta to the tune of 24-under over his final 63 holes in a mind-boggling rout.

As a teenager, Burns saw Augusta during a practice round, but didn’t get to play until a trip with his father, Todd, a month ago.

“It was really special for us,” Burns, who has won three times on the PGA Tour in the past year, said. “We were both blown away by just the property in general. It was definitely a moment for me that I’ll never forget, getting to walk around with my dad for the first time and getting to play.”

Whether it was Tiger’s chip-in on No. 16 in 2005 or Bubba Watson’s 2012 miracle from the trees on No. 10, Burns’ spent his first trips around Augusta reliving those moments and seeing exactly where they were created.

“I was like, ‘Wow, that was really impressive.’ When you see it up close and personal, it kind of changes your perspective on things,” Burns said Tuesday.

Thursday offered him the first opportunity to create such a moment. He birdied three of the par-5s (Nos. 2, 8 and 13), but will look again for a game-changing moment in today’s second round.

“This week it’s about trying to learn the golf course as much as I can,” Burns said. “There’s a lot of nuances to this place, and for me it’s trying to gain information from guys who have been here a bunch, or guys that have played well in the past here — so just trying to take all of that in and kind of process it.”

Today, Burns will get his second shot at the beloved venue as his grouping with Abraham Ancer and Tyrrell Hatton tees off at 9:01 a.m. (CDT).

Courtesy KTBS