LOS ANGELES — It seemed like Sam Burns shot himself out of a cannon off the famous elevated first tee at Riviera in Thursday’s Genesis Invitational first round, carding eagle on the majestic par-5, and he never looked back.
“I got off to a hot start there at No. 1 with eagle on the first hole,’’ Burns said.
The 24-year-old Burns finished the day with a 7-under-par 64 to take a two-shot lead over Matthew Fitzpatrick and Max Homa into Friday’s second round.
Before the tournament Nick Faldo, the CBS and Golf Channel analyst, picked Burns to win this week. When Burns was informed of that after his round, he said, “It’s a great compliment. Anytime a guy like that says you’re going to play well, it’s always a good sign, I guess.’’
Through one round, Willie Mack III is representing at the Genesis Invitational.
The 32-year-old Mack, a mini-tour journeyman who was the recipient of the tournament’s annual Charlie Sifford Memorial Exemption, posted a 1-under-par 70 on Thursday in his second career PGA Tour event.
Since the inception of the Sifford exemption in 2009 (given to a promising minority golfer by the Tiger Woods Foundation), the only player to shoot a lower opening-round score than Mack was Harold Varner III, who shot 69 in 2014. Varner now is a member of the PGA Tour and he, too, shot 70 on Thursday.
Just three Sifford exemption players have made the cut, which is low 65 scores and ties this week.
Mack, who’s won 65 times on mini-tours, said the largest check he ever won for a victory was $37,000. The winner this week gets $1.674 million.
“I’m out here trying to win like everybody else,’’ he said, “I tee it up just like everybody else, so why not come out here and try to win?’’
You might want to place a bet on Tae Hoon Kim. He’s living a bit of a charmed life.
The 35-year-old, playing in his first PGA Tour event this week, aced the 168-yard 16th Thursday with a 7-iron and won a Genesis G-80 car. It was the third Genesis vehicle he’s won in the past four months.
Kim won a GV-80 for capturing the Genesis Championship on the Korean Tour last year, and he won a GV-70 for finishing atop the season-long points list on the Korean Tour. His win at the Genesis Championship earned him the sponsor’s exemption into this week.
Kim said afterward that he gave the first two cars he won to his parents and he was undecided about what he’ll do with this third one.
Perhaps no one has a more bizarre story this week than Tyler McCumber, who shot 4-under par with his left index finger bandaged from an accident in his hotel room earlier in the week.
“Tuesday morning, I was coming out to the course and I went to open the windows to cool off the hotel room before I left and I smashed it in a sliding window door right in the crevice,’’ McCumber said. “It went underneath the back of the nail bed and lifted half of the back of the nail up. It was pretty torn up, but fortunately the surgeon on site, the emergency surgeon, is a hand specialist. He numbed the finger and ripped off the nail.’’
McCumber, who said he hit balls “right after surgery,’’ played with a bandage on the finger with the wound bleeding through it.
“It’s just gone numb,’’ he said of any pain. “Riviera will take your mind off the pain. I was surprised I could play, honestly. When I did it, I pretty much booked a flight back home and changed it once [the doctor] ripped it off.’’
Two top players bad nightmarish rounds Thursday. Bryson DeChambeau, the reigning U.S. Open champion and resident big hitter on Tour, shot a 4-over-par 75. And Justin Thomas went two worse than that, carding a 6-over-par 77.
Dustin Johnson, the reigning Masters champion and No. 1 ranked player in the world, shot 3-under.
Defending champion Adam Scott shot a 2-under-par 69, saying Riviera is “a course I’m comfortable on so even hitting it poorly, I kind of feel like I know how to get it around.’’
Jordan Spieth, who’s held the 54-hole lead in the past two tournaments he’s played, failing to win either, continued his strong play with a 3-under-par 68, which has him tied for 12th and in position to contend again this week.