LA QUINTA, Calif. — The letters shaved into Sam Burns’ hair show R-T-R for Roll Tide Roll. It’s part of a lost football bet after fellow PGA Tour member Justin Thomas’ Alabama Crimson Tide beat Burns’ LSU Tigers.
Burns may have found some inspiration in the lost bet, at least the roll part. The 27-year-old was on a major roll Friday at the American Express, firing a career-low 11-under 61 that flirted with the mythical number of 59 before pars on his final two holes.
“Based off the scores, obviously everybody’s shooting some good numbers, so I think just trying to keep pace and trying to hit as many quality shots and get as many looks as possible,” said Burns, whose 36-hole total of 17-under 127 was good only for a one-shot lead over Michael Kim on another calm and warm day.
The other story of the day was 20-year-old amateur Nick Dunlap, the current U.S. Amateur champion and a sophomore at the University of Alabama. With a 65 on the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West, Dunlap moved into a tie for third at 15 under with K.H. Lee, who shot 64 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.
“I’ve always said pressure’s a privilege,” Dunlap said, who admitted to nerves during the week. “I got a great opportunity to be here, and to feel what I felt on 16, 17, 18, I’m sure it’s, well, hopefully, if I keep playing well, it’s only going to magnify.”
Burns’ 61 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West set a record for lowest second round in the tournament and matched the course record set just last year in the third round by Dylan Wu.
Kim also played the Nicklaus Tournament Course, one of three courses in the tournament rotation, and fired a 63 for his 16-under total.
Scoring continued to be torrid Friday, with six players tied for fifth at 14 under. Seven of the top 10 scores after 36 holes were from golfers who played La Quinta Country Club in the first round and the Nicklaus Tournament Course in the second round. Those golfers will rotate to the Pete Dye Stadium Course at PGA West for Saturday’s third round.
Among the six golfers at 14 under are Patrick Cantlay (second-round 66), 2021 American Express champion Si Woo Kim (66) and 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Eric Cole, who shot 64 at La…