By Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
BOISE, Idaho – Texan Hunter Haas and New Zealand’s Steven Alker posted 9-under 62s Thursday and climbed to the top of the birdie mountain in the opening round of the Albertsons Boise Open, one of four Web.com Tour events that have been on the schedule since the Tour’s inception in 1990.
The co-leaders are one better than lefty Tim Wilkinson, also of New Zealand while Washington’s Alex Prugh is two shots back.
Ten players – including 2002 champion Jason Gore – are tied at 6-under 65 at Hillcrest Country Club, which yielded a scoring average of 69.026, the lowest mark in the tournament’s 24 year history. The proliferation of low scores is partially the result of this tournament moving into July from its customary early September spot on the schedule.
“It’s the easiest I’ve seen it play,” said Haas, the 2010 tournament champion. “The greens are receptive and you’re not afraid of running it through a fairway and into ankle-deep rough. We don’t have that here. In years past if you missed a fairway you were hoping to get it on the green.”
This time around, with the course playing a bit softer and slower to keep things green, players are back to blasting drivers and aiming at pins.
“You know scores are going to be low this week,” said Alker, who collected his third career win at the Utah Championship two weeks ago. “I’ve got my blinkers on. I’m going to keep my head down and try to make as many birdies as I can.”
Haas and Alker popped their names on the leaderboard late in the afternoon, supplanting playing partners Wilkinson and Prugh at the top. The two were joined by leading money Michael Putnam, whose 4-under 67 has him well back and tied for 29th.
The threesome combined for 19 birdies and zero bogeys and were led by Wilkinson, who closed with five birdies to end the day.
“I was thinking about that coming up on 18 but thought I should hold my tongue,” said Wilkinson.
“It felt like someone did make a bogey somewhere but it more or less a par on a par-5,” said Prugh. “You see good shots. You see putts go in. You just feed off of that.”
It was pretty good for Alker, who posted a career-best, 10-under 61 in the third round in Salt Lake City a couple weeks back en route to a playoff win over Aussie Ash Hall.
“It was a stress-free day. I had a nice start, a nice middle and a nice end,” said Alker, predictably understated. “It’s a funny game. I’ve really been patient the last month or two and I felt my swing was coming around. I started rolling the ball nice a few weeks ago and started making some putts. I think my ducks are in a row right now.”
-- Weather – Sunny. Overnight low of 71. Daytime high of 100. Winds WNW 10-18 mph.
-- Co-leaders Hunter Haas and Steven Alker matched the lowest opening-round score in tournament history with their 62’s today. Jonas Bilxt (2011), Michael Putnam (2012), Andrew Svoboda (2012) and Tyrone van Aswegen (2012) have previously started this event with similar scores.
-- Jeff Klauk (76) withdrew after the first round.
-- Haas (2010) is one of three past champions playing this week. Also in the field are Fran Quinn (2009) and Jason Gore (2002).
-- Haas’ round of 62 today is his career-low on the Web.com Tour. His previous best on this Tour was 64, which he posted five times previously, including twice in this event when he won in 2010. Haas’ all-time best came on the PGA TOUR - a 10-under 61 in the second round of the 2011 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
-- This is Haas’ 342 combined-Tour start – 125 PGA TOUR/217 Web.com Tour.
-- This was Haas’ 1057th combined-Tour round – 217 PGA TOUR/713 Web.com Tour.
-- This is the fourth time on the Web.com Tour that Haas has shared the lead after the opening round. He was also a co-leader lead three times previously – 2007 Movistar Panama Championship, 2007 Xerox Classic, 2009 Moonah Classic. He has held the outright lead once on the PGA TOUR – 2005 FUNAI Classic at Walt Disney World Resort.
-- Haas has now posted back-to-back scores of 64-62—126 (-16) in his last two rounds at Hillcrest Country. Haas shot a 7-under 64 in the final round to win the tournament in 2010, his last competitive round in Boise.
-- Haas is making his eighth career start in this event. He won in 2010, tied for sixth in 2008 and tied for eighth in 2002.
-- Haas’ previously low score in the first round at Hillcrest CC was 68, which he posted in 2008 and 2010.
-- Haas has made the cut in nine of 12 starts on Tour this year and his only top-10 was a T7 at the United Leasing Championship. He is currently No. 65 on the money list.
-- Alker’s round of 62 today is one off his career low – a 10-under 61 which he posted in the third round of the Utah Championship two weeks ago.
-- This is the first time that Alker has been in first place after an opening round on the Web.com Tour. He was tied for second twice previously in his career after the initial 18 holes.
-- Alker turns 42 on Sunday.
-- Alker’s playoff win at the Utah Championship was his third career win on Tour. He also won the 2002 Chitimacha Louisiana Open and the 2009 HSBC New Zealand PGA Championship.
-- Alker has made the cut five times in nine starts on Tour this year. He is currently No. 21 on the money list.
-- Alker has made the cut three times in seven previous starts in this event. His best finish was a T14 in 2002. He missed the cut here in his last three starts (2009, 2010 and 2012).
-- Alker’s previous low round at Hillcrest CC was a 66 in the opening round in 2006 (T28).
-- The Web.com Tour will head east to suburban Pittsburgh for next week’s stop – the Mylan Classic at Southpointe Golf Club in Canonsburg, Pa., August 1-4.