By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports
Sam Burns fans didn’t have to wait to see if their favorite PGA Tour pro was chosen for one of six at-large spots on the USA Ryder Cup Team Tuesday morning.
Burns was the first of those announced by team captain Zach Johnson, from PGA of America headquarters in Frisco, Texas. He was joined by four major championship winners and Ryder Cup veterans — Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas – and another familiar Ryder Cup figure, Rickie Fowler.
He got the good news from Johnson Monday, and was clearly delighted when interviewed in the Tuesday morning press conference, speaking from home in Choudrant. The six at-large choices all participated by Zoom.
Burns nearly made his Ryder Cup debut two years ago on American soil at Whistling Straits, but team captain Steve Stricker didn’t find a spot for him then. Burns was considered a bubble pick this time, too, but to his relief, Johnson went with him.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say it was my Number 1 goal. It’s something I wanted to be part of, didn’t want to miss out on (again),” said Burns, who is based out of Squire Creek Country Club in Choudrant. “When Zach gave me the call, (I was) just incredibly honored.
“For me personally, there’s no higher honor than to represent your country, to be a part of this Ryder Cup and tee it up alongside these world-class players and guys, I’m extremely, extremely excited,” he said.
The Ryder Cup will be staged Sept. 29-Oct. 1 in Rome at Marco Simone Golf and Country Club.
Burns is not new to international team competition. He was part of the USA’s 2014 Junior Ryder Cup Team (a combined boys and girls roster) that posted a 16-8 win over Europe in Scotland, and played for his country in the 2022 President’s Cup, won 17 ½ to 12 ½ over the International team.
“I definitely dreamed it, many, many times. As a kid you watch every Ryder Cup and I always had this idea in the back of your head that you want to be a part of that, and you’d get to experience that one day,” he said. “It’s a very surreal experience when the opportunity presents itself. I can’t wait to be there, tee it up alongside these guys, and hopefully bringing the Cup home.”
“Sam is a stud athlete, number one,” said Johnson. “He won the World Match Play Championships this year. Tremendous putter, which is always good in the Ryder Cup.
“To say he meshes well with the other guys on the team would again be a massive understatement. A versatile teammate. Guys want to be around him, guys want to play with him. It’s nice to lock hands, lock shoulders with somebody you want to be around, and Sam fits that to a T.”
Burns is one of four Ryder Cup rookies on the 12-man squad making his Ryder Cup debut, along with automatic qualifiers Wyndham Clark (the reigning U.S. Open champion), Brian Harman (winner at The Open) and Max Homa. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler, Patrick Cantlay and 2020 Olympic gold medalist Xander Schauffele were other automatic selections based on money won in 2022-23 before last week’s Tour Championship taken by Norway’s Viktor Hovland.
Burs is the fourth Shreveport-Bossier product to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team. Tommy Bolt played in 1955 and 1957. Hal Sutton teed it up the Ryder Cup in 1985, 1987, 1999 and 2002. David Toms was a teammate of Sutton’s in 2002, played for Sutton’s 2004 team (Sutton captained that squad) and played again in 2006.
Two other Louisiana golf greats, brothers Jay and Lionel Hebert from Lafayette, made Ryder Cup squads in 1957 (Lionel), 1959 and 1961 (Jay). Current LIV Golf pro Patrick Reed, who graduated from high school in Baton Rouge, made the roster in 2014, 2016 and 2018.
Burns’ putting ability, and his strong friendship with Scheffler, has made him a popular choice to partner with the Dallas native in the Ryder Cup. Scheffler has struggled putting all season long, and although he ranks No. 1 on the Tour in most statistical categories, he did not win a tournament in 2022-23.
They did partner in the President’s Cup, with Burns going 0-3-2 and scoring one point, but observers agreed that was mostly due to Scheffler being badly out of form as they partnered in all but the closing singles play.