What the Sanderson Farms Championship means to defending champion Sam Burns

Sam Burns allowed himself some time to reminisce Wednesday morning as he journeyed to the Country Club of Jackson to map out his title defense at the Sanderson Farms Championship.

Reaching for memories of his previous five appearances in the event, some of the details have been lost to time for Burns — understandable amid the chaos that accompanies a successful golf career such as his. Burns now finds himself ranked 12th in the world, and helped the United States take home the Presidents Cup last week during his debut in that event.

What remains vivid in Burns' mind, though, is the role this event played in helping him launch his career. His start in the Sanderson Farms Championship in October 2017 was his first as a professional on the PGA Tour.

"I remember being really, really nervous," Burns, the former LSU star, said Tuesday. "Granted, I expected to be. I'm nervous every week I tee it up, but especially that week. I think having a lot of friends and family here was really special, and going out and trying to figure out where my game stacked up against guys on the PGA Tour, that's what I remember most."

Burns finished tied for 43rd that weekend in 2017, shooting a 2-under-par for the tournament.

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His most recent trip to the Country Club of Jackson proved far more successful. Burns finished 22 under, setting a tournament record at this course to win the event.

"To be able to play really well here the last few years means a lot to me," he said.

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The characteristics of the course provide Burns with an additional wave of nostalgia. The Bermudagrass at the Country Club of Jackson and the general style of the course is similar to what the Louisiana native became accustomed to growing up, he said.

That also means he knows what it takes to play well — knowledge he'll look to apply when he tees off Thursday at 12:28 p.m.

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"For starters, you have to drive the ball well just because it's really hard to predict out of the Bermuda rough," Burns said. "The greens are obviously really fast, but I think if you get in the right spots on the greens, you can make a lot of putts. The greens roll so pure. I think it's a combination of driving the ball well and giving yourself a lot of opportunities on the greens."

Coming off the conclusion of the Presidents Cup on Sunday, Burns' schedule didn't offer him much time to recharge. But the proximity of the Sanderson Farms Championship to his home in Choudrant, Louisiana, did.

Burns enjoyed a few hours out of the sight of the public, making grocery store runs for his wife and chowing down on a salad, nuggets and fries inside the local Chick-Fil-a.

"I think out here sometimes it feels like you live two lives," Burns said. "You're out on the road playing and then you go home and see friends and people that you don't get to see as much. I didn't really get to see a lot of friends the last couple of days, but being able to go home and just relax. ... that was really nice."

David Eckert covers Southern Miss for The Hattiesburg American. Contact him at deckert@gannett.com or on Twitter @davideckert98.

This article originally appeared on Hattiesburg American: What the Sanderson Farms Championship means to defending champ Sam Burns