Sam Burns simply was on fire.
The 27-year-old Burns made two eagles while carding a bogey-free, 11-under-par 62 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West in La Quinta to take a one-stroke lead over Michael Kim of San Diego and Cal midway through the 59th American Express.
“I was playing very well, but didn’t know exactly where I was until I looked at the scoreboard after making a birdie on No. 16,” said Burns, who claimed the last of his five PGA Tour victories in the 2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play. “I had a good chance to shoot 59 or 60, but I missed a putt on No. 17 and made a bad shot on the last hole, but I’ll take 61. That’s a great score.
“I really like this golf course. Overall, just a really solid day. I hit a lot of quality shots and was able to make some putts. I only hope that I have a chance to keep things going in this direction on the weekend and have a chance to win again.”
Burns, who has claimed all five of his five PGA Tour titles in the last three seasons, holed out from the fairway for his eagles at Nos. 4 and 11, in addition to making seven birdies in his career-best round while recording a 36-hole score of 17-under-par 127.
Kim made six of his 10 birdies on the back nine while shooting 63 on the Nicklaus Tournament Course.
“I even remember some of the shots I hit into these holes 10 or 15 years ago, when I played here as a kid,” said Kim, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2018 John Deere Classic, which he won by a whopping eight strokes.
“So it’s fun to kind of go back into the memory bank and just remember some of the more stress-free times, I guess.”
Nick Dunlap, the reigning U.S. Amateur champion, collected six birdies on the front nine in a bogey-free 65 on the Stadium Course at PGA West and is two shots behind in a tie for third with K.H. Lee of South, who had five of his nine birdies on the back nine of the Nicklaus Stadium Course.
Sixth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and UCLA birdied four of the last six holes to cap a 66 on the Nicklaus Course and is three down in a big tie for fifth with Eric Cole of Palm Springs, the 2023 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, who posted a bogey-free 64 at La Quinta Country Club; Adam Hadwin of Canada, who had five birdies on the back nine in a bogey-free 65 on the Stadium Course; Si Woo Kim of South Korea, who won this event in 2021 and made five birdies on the front nine in a bogey-free 66 on the Nicklaus Course; Christiaan Bezuidenhout of South Africa, who had three birdies on each nine of the Nicklaus Course in a 67, and first-round co-leader Alex Noren of Sweden, who followed his 62 with a bogey-free 68 on the Nicklaus Course.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler shot a bogey-free 66 on the Nicklaus Course and is in a tie for 26th that includes fifth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who birdied four of his last six holes for a 69 on the Nicklaus Course, while 10th-ranked Wyndham Clark, the reigning U.S. Open champion, holed out for an eagle on the fourth hole in a 64 on the Nicklaus Course and is tied for 36th.
Every golfer in the field will play the Stadium Course, the Nicklaus Course and La Quinta Country Club over the first three rounds, before the cut is made after 54 holes, and the final round will be played exclusively on the Stadium Course at PGA West.
For complete results and third-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard