Sam Burns torching the competition at Genesis Invitational

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LOS ANGELES — If the first two rounds are any indication, the Genesis Invitational appears to be Sam Burns’ tournament to win or lose.

Burns, a 24-year-old from Louisiana who went to LSU, is 12-under entering the weekend at Riviera Country Club and takes a five-shot lead into the weekend. Among his closest pursuers are world No. 1 Dustin Johnson, Tyler McCumber and Jason Kokrak, all of whom are 7-under.

Jordan Spieth, Max Homa and Wyndham Clark are 6-under.

Burns began his opening round Thursday with an eagle on the first hole and ended it with three consecutive birdies to shoot 64. On Friday, he was steady and methodical en route to shooting a bogey-free 66. His 130 tied the lowest 36-hole score ever shot at Riviera.

“I’d like to think that I have all the tools to win out here,’’ said Burns, who has one PGA Tour win. “Obviously, there’s a lot of good players — really, really good players.’’

A few of the best in the world who were in the field didn’t make it to the weekend. Rory McIlroy (7-over), Justin Thomas (8-over) and Bryson DeChambeau (2-over) failed to make the cut.

“I thought the course had some teeth [Friday],’’ McCumber said.

“Sam played great again, [but you] can’t go out and force anything around here,’’ Homa said.

“Obviously, Sam had some success on the greens and everywhere else, but it’s not like you can go chase people on this golf course,’’ Spieth said.

Burns preached “having patience out there’’ as the key to his success.

“I didn’t try to force anything,’’ he said. “Whenever we were kind of in a tricky spot, I just kind of took what the golf course gave us. There’s definitely times where I’ve tried to force it a little bit, but this just is not a golf course you want to do that. This golf course doesn’t necessarily give you a lot of opportunities at times, so just put it in the right spots. When you get in a tricky spot, just try to get it back in position.

“I’d say hitting it where you’re looking is obviously important, so hopefully we’ll try to do some more of that.’’

Burns, in two of his previous three events, had so-so Sunday rounds that pushed him down the leaderboard. At the Farmers Insurance Open last month, he was in contention, but shot a final-round 75 to fall to a tie for 18th place. At Pebble Beach he faltered to a tie for 39th after shooting 73 on that Sunday.

Sam Burns
Sam Burns
AP

Asked when he allows himself to forget about a poor round like the 75 at Torrey Pines, Burns said, “Just about when I drove out of the parking lot.’’

“It’s golf, man,’’ he said. “It will eat at you if you let it. I think just forgetting the bad ones and learn as much as you can. I think we just hope to keep putting ourselves in that position.’’

He’s in position to make CBS analyst Nick Faldo look like a genius. Faldo picked Burns to win before the tournament.

“It’s a great compliment,’’ Burns said. “Anytime a guy like that says you’re going to play well, it’s always a good sign, I guess.’’

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