'I Couldn't Sleep' - Sam Burns Describes Being Paired With Tiger Woods

The 26-year-old has recounted the story of being paired with Woods at the 2018 Honda Classic

Sam Burns during the 2023 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow
Sam Burns has described his nerve-wracking experience of being paired with Tiger Woods
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In his relatively short career so far, Sam Burns has experienced some memorable moments, including five PGA Tour wins and several Major appearances.

However, the time he was paired with 15-time Major winner Tiger Woods surely ranks as one of the most nerve-wracking. The World No.14 appeared on PGA Tour winner Sam Kaufman’s new Smylie Show podcast, where he described the feeling of being paired with Woods for the final round of the 2018 Honda Classic. 

Burns explained that he received the news he'd be playing with Woods when he was out to dinner. He said: “Go to dinner that night and I get a text halfway through dinner. It’s like: ‘1240. Sam Burns. Tiger Woods.’ And I’m like: ‘Oh, my gosh. So, I don’t eat anything the rest of the night.”

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It wasn’t just Burns’ meal that was affected by the news. He also explained he couldn’t sleep. He continued: “Go out the next day and I get to the golf course probably way earlier than I should have. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t do anything.”

Burns then described the daunting scene awaiting him at the first tee at PGA National. He said: “So I go to the tee, we warm up and walk up to the first tee and it seemed like 10,000 people were standing up there. Maybe, like, Caroline [Campbell, Burns' wife] and my parents clapped for me and everybody else has no idea who I am. And then Tiger walks on the tee and it’s just like Death Valley just scored a touchdown. It’s so loud.”

The American then described the dilemma over which shot to play. He said: “The first hole at the Honda Classic, you can hit a four iron or a five iron. I’ve missed the fairway every day with a four iron so I look at my caddie and I’m like: ‘Hey man, what you think about that five iron? He’s like: ‘Well, it may leave you a little further.’ I’m like: ‘I’m going to hit the five iron.’ I pretty much just aim it in the left rough. I’m just going to try to block cut it. So, I hit this block cut into the fairway.”

With the ice still not broken with Woods, though, Burns realised he needed to find a good way to open up a dialogue with him. His solution was hilarious, and thankfully, Woods thought so too. He continued: “We were walking off the tee and I’m still so nervous, like: ‘I’ve got to say something to him. What do I say?’ So he’s kind of walking next to me and I kind of put my arm on his shoulder. I was like: ‘Man, it’s crazy all these people came out to watch me play golf today, huh?’ and he just started laughing."

It soon got even better for Burns. he birdied the first hole as his nerves finally settled before finishing tied for eighth, two shots ahead of Woods, who finished 12th.

Mike Hall

Mike has over 25 years of experience in journalism, including writing on a range of sports throughout that time, such as golf, football and cricket. Now a freelance staff writer for Golf Monthly, he is dedicated to covering the game's most newsworthy stories. 

He has written hundreds of articles on the game, from features offering insights into how members of the public can play some of the world's most revered courses, to breaking news stories affecting everything from the PGA Tour and LIV Golf to developmental Tours and the amateur game. 

Mike grew up in East Yorkshire and began his career in journalism in 1997. He then moved to London in 2003 as his career flourished, and nowadays resides in New Brunswick, Canada, where he and his wife raise their young family less than a mile from his local course. 

Kevin Cook’s acclaimed 2007 biography, Tommy’s Honour, about golf’s founding father and son, remains one of his all-time favourite sports books.