Cool Customer: Burns earns SBJ’s highest honor

By ROY LANG III, Journal Sports

Hal Sutton set the stage for David Toms.

Toms did the same for Sam Burns.

Burns had big shoes to fill considering the success of his predecessors on the PGA Tour, but it looks like the 26-year-old is well on his way to paving the way for the next Shreveport star on the links.

During the 2021-22 PGA Tour campaign, Burns racked up three victories and more than $7 million in earnings. He also qualified for the United States’ Presidents Cup squad that dusted the Internationals in September.

Sutton, a 14-time winner on the PGA Tour, never won more than twice in a season during his 24-year career. Toms won 13 times in 24 years on Tour, but collected three victories in a season just once (2001). His career-best haul was $3.9 million in 2005.

The breakthrough season for Burns, a former LSU and Calvary Baptist star, helped him coast to the inaugural Shreveport-Bossier Journal Sportsperson of the Year crown.

And he’s just getting started.

Burns began the 2021-22 campaign ranked 25th in the world with one PGA Tour victory under his belt. He quickly served notice a career run was imminent. He won the first event of the season, the Sanderson Farms Championship in Jackson, Miss.

The 2016-17 Jack Nicklaus Award winner (best Division I college golfer) then successfully defended his Valspar Championship crown before an incredible rally to capture a trophy at Colonial.

Despite facing a seven-stroke deficit entering the final round in Fort Worth, Texas, Burns posted a Sunday 65 to sneak into a playoff with Scottie Scheffler – a good friend and the No. 1-ranked player in the world.

A 38-foot putt from off the green on the first playoff hole gave Burns the title and a 1979 Pontiac Firebird. His first of three victories last season came three hours to the east of his hometown; the last came three hours to the west. 

The trio of triumphs highlighted a season that included eight top-10 finishes in 24 events. Toms had more than eight top-10s on three occasions (2001, 2002, 2005) while Sutton had four seasons of at least 10 finishes in the top 10 (1983, 1984, 1999, 2000).

Burns vaulted as high as No. 9 in the Official World Golf Rankings.

“(The season) feels like it’s flown by,” said Burns, who ranked in the top 10 in putting on the PGA Tour last season. “I’m just trying to think about and reflect on this past year; it just seems like this year went really fast, and then I think about the previous years, and it’s like, ‘Where has the time gone?’”

Next up, a major championship victory, something Sutton (1983 PGA Championship) and Toms (2001 PGA) accomplished. One thing is for sure: Burns will enjoy the pursuit.

“This is something I don’t take for granted,” he said. “I’m very honored that I get to play golf for a living, and I get to do it on the best Tour in the world.

“I try to make sure that I’m keeping that in the forefront of my mind.”

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