Burns takes advantage of playing opportunity with U.S. Vice Captain Stewart Cink
Five-time PGA TOUR winner Sam Burns was a surprising late addition to the Wyndham Championship. At No. 19 in the FedExCup standings, he sat well within the top 70 cutoff that determines who advances to the FedEx St. Jude Championship, and he’s in a good position to secure one of 30 spots at the TOUR Championship.
So why was he going out of his way to play the last event of the Regular Season?
“I’d be lying if I said (the Ryder Cup) wasn’t the biggest goal I had coming into this year,” Burns said ahead of his second appearance at Sedgefield Country Club. “I have basically three events left to try to convince Zach (Johnson, U.S. Team Captain) that I need to be on that team. … Coming out this week trying to prepare really well and doing everything I can to be in the best shape possible and try to win a golf tournament.”
Currently sitting at No. 13 in the Ryder Cup standings, Burns falls short of the six players who’ll automatically qualify for the U.S. Team. Of course, snagging a captain’s pick wasn’t the only reason for his appearance.
“I had a good week of practice at home and honestly just wanted to get some reps next week before the Playoffs start,” explained Burns, who fired a 5-under 65 on Saturday. “This is a good place to do it, it’s a good golf course.”
As for Stewart Cink, U.S. Team Vice Captain and Burns’ playing partner for the first two rounds at Sedgefield, he was planning on playing this week either way. (U.S. Vice Captain and three-time Wyndham Championship winner Davis Love III was slated to be in the field but withdrew on Monday.) But the front-row seat to a Ryder Cup hopeful definitely didn’t hurt.
“As far as the assistants go, I’m probably the one who by far who has the most eyeballs on all the guys- along with Zach,” said Cink, who shot 72-67 and missed the cut by a stroke. “We’ve seen a lot of them. I played with Sam today, and he’s one of the guys we’re taking a look at. For our sake, I hope Sam plays great and automatically qualifies for the team ’cause I really like his game. … He’s just got a lot of firepower in his game, he’s young and he’s hungry, and I know he wants to be on the team.
Despite a sluggish 69-69 start to the tournament, Burns did show that firepower in his third-round 65 that featured four birdies and an eagle.
Cink, who played in five straight Ryder Cups from 2002-2010, was selected as the fifth and final Vice Captain to represent the U.S. Ryder Cup team this September at the Marco Simone Golf & Country Club in Rome, Italy, alongside Steve Stricker, Davis Love III, Jim Furyk and Fred Couples.
Though Cink failed to make the cut at Sedgefield or earn a tee time in Memphis next week, his work is far from over. The last time the U.S. won a Ryder Cup on European soil was three decades ago, and the U.S. is hungry for revenge.
“There’re so many guys who are close that the hardest job for Zach is he’s gonna have to tell someone they’re not the team,” Cink said Friday.
When Stricker was U.S. Captain for the 2021 Ryder Cup Burns was ranked 16th in the U.S. team standings and had one win on the season at the Valspar Championship. He currently stands at 13th with one win – at the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play in March – and 10 top-25s. His win in Austin, Texas, moved him into the fifth spot, which would have automatically qualified him for the Ryder Cup. But he has since missed the cut in four of his last 12 events and slowly lost footing.
Burns described the call from Stricker in 2021 telling him he would not make the team as “gut-wrenching.” But the decision also motivated him, as he went on to win the Sanderson Farms Championship in his very next start and automatically qualified for the 2022 Presidents Cup just down the street from Greensboro in Charlotte, North Carolina. It was his first appearance representing the U.S. internationally since playing the Arnold Palmer Cup as an LSU Tiger. The Americans won by five points, but Burns failed to record a win for the U.S., finishing with a 0-3-2 record.
“I love team atmosphere,” Burns added. “I grew up playing a lot of team sports, and I love being a part of them. To be able to play for something bigger than yourself is obviously really important. … I hope I play well enough to not make it a hard decision.”
Cink wasn’t the only watchful eye at Sedgefield Country Club this week. European Captain Luke Donald played the first two rounds with Swedes Alex Noren and Vincent Norrman, the 2023 Barbasol Championship winner. Both stand at 4 under after the third round. Contrary to Burns, Norren didn’t seem too preoccupied with Ryder Cup visions.
“No, I wasn’t thinking about (Ryder Cup) at all,” he said. “Just trying to play my best.”
Johnson, who shot 67-72 and missed the cut by one, played alongside Harris English, considered a surprising captain’s pick in 2021. English rallied to make the cut after an opening 73 with a second-round 65. Chris Kirk completed the threesome but failed to make the cut after going 73-71. A winner on TOUR this season at The Honda Classic, Kirk was left off the 2014 team despite winning a FedExCup Playoffs event in the eleventh hour. English and Kirk sit at Nos. 18 and 20, respectively, in the current Ryder Cup standings.
Source : PGA Tour