BOISE, Idaho -- Blake Adams figures he needs to hit his gap wedge as often as possible this week. Adams' wedge put him in birdie range time after time in the opening round of the Nationwide Tour's Albertsons Boise Open and the 34-year old Georgian took full advantage of the opportunities. Adams tallied nine birdies and matched his season and career-best score with an 8-under 63, good for a one-stroke lead after the initial 18 holes in the $725,000 tournament.
Adams leads by one over PGA TOUR veteran Jonathan Kaye, who missed a short par putt on the closing hole. Texan J.J. Killeen and Patrick Sheehan, winner of the Athens Regional Foundation Classic, share third place, two back of Adams, who is No. 4 on the money thanks to seven top-10 finishes this season.
Adams, the Tour leader in driving distance, got off to a potentially disastrous start on the opening par-4. His 3-wood "failed to turn over" on the dogleg-left, 409-yard hole and went through a fairway bunker, but just barely. He had one foot in the bunker and one foot out and overhanging tree branches in front.
"A lot of my friends back home call me "Tin Cup" because I don't like laying up," said Adams. "I've learned there are times that you have to and I probably should have there. I was thinking that it's just the first hole of the day and you just don't want to pitch out."
Adams' second shot caught a tree branch and dropped straight down in a bad lie. He pulled his third left and into a greenside bunker, plugging near the lip. A big blast left him 20 feet away in four. Adams, ranked No. 6 on Tour putting, rolled it in for a five.
"I don't know if there's anything such as a good bogey," he said. "But I'll gladly take that. Looking back on it, considering the lies I had in the rough and the bunker, I was glad to make 5."
It was the only five on the card for Adams, who registered ten 3s on the day.
"I just putted well, that's the main thing," he said. "I hit some good shots but I just made the putts. That's the difference in anybody's round out here. Everybody hits it about the same, it's just who makes the putts."
Kaye shared the lead until missing a left-to-right sliding downhill three-footer at No. 18.
"I wanted to ram it but I knew if I missed it I'd be chipping back," he said.
Despite the miss, Kaye was pleased with his first Nationwide Tour start since 1997, when he briefly teed it up three times.
"I came out with no expectations and tried to hit solid shots," he said after seven birdies and an eagle. "I made one back club selection on the fourth hole and made bogey, that and a par-save at eight kept my round going."
Things haven't been going well for Kaye, who is playing on the PGA TOUR this year on a Major Medical Extension. The 39-year old Phoenix resident has been battling to get back to full strength since 2006.
"Playing on a 'medical' I haven't gotten to pick the starts I would normally pick. I didn't get to play at venues that I normally like to play," said Kaye, who has made seven cuts in 17 starts this season. "I wasn't quite 100%. I may have started playing too soon the year before."
Kay's 7-under matched his season-best, a 7-under at the Valero Texas Open earlier this summer, but he still finds himself No. 162 on the money list and making his first start since the PGA TOUR regular season more than a month ago.
"The goal is to win," he said. "I have to get my card back somehow. If I can win here and make some more money somewhere else I might be able to sneak in there."
• This week's field might be one of the strongest ever assembled for a Nationwide Tour event. There are 67 of the top 70 money winners entered. Number one Michael Sim, No. 40 Craig Barlow and No. 56 Jhonattan Vegas are the only missing members from the first 70. There are also 31 players with exempt status on the 2009 PGA TOUR competing. Among the list of 31 -- Marc Turnesa, winner of the 2008 Justin Timberlake Shriners Hospital for Children Open and past champions Jason Gore (2002), Roger Tambellini (2003), Scott Gump (2004), Jon Mills (2007) and Chris Tidland (2008).
• Blake Adams' 8-under 63 matched the lowest opening-round score in the tournament's 20-year history. Adams tied the mark first set by Rick Cramer in 1996 and equaled nine other times, including four times in 2007.
• Jonathan Kaye, a 12-year member and two-time winner on the PGA TOUR, is making only his seventh career start on the Nationwide Tour. Kaye made two out of three cuts in 1995 and two out of three again in 1997. His best finish was a T9 at the season-opening Inland Empire Open in '97. Kaye has 310 career starts on TOUR and has earned $10,535,111.
• Daniel Summerhays had two eagles on par-5s today (Nos. 3 and 16).
• Former Boise State standout Troy Merritt finished with a 2-under par 69. Merritt made his Tour debut in this event last year but missed the cut. Merritt enters this week No. 25 on the 2009 Tour money list, thanks in large part to his first career win two weeks ago at the Mexico Open, where he beat Australian Adam Bland on the second hole of a playoff.
• Tyler Aldridge of nearby Nampa, another former Boise State player, posted a 1-under 70. Aldridge was runner-up to Josh Teater at last week's Utah Championship. His second-place check of $59,400 jumped him from No. 217 to No. 70 on the money list.
• Heralded amateurs Rickie Fowler and Sam Saunders, the grandson of Arnold Palmer, made their professional debuts this afternoon. The two were paired together and were joined in the group by 2008 NCAA Champion Kevin Chappell of UCLA. Saunders and Chappell both birdied the opening hole, while Fowler made par. Chappell carded a 3-under 68, Saunders an even-par 71 and Fowler a 2-over 73.
• Players who were bogey-free on the opening day:
68 -- Oskar Bergman, Tjaart van der Walt
• 77 players in the field of 156 broke par in the opening round and 86 posted par-or-better scores. The first-round scoring average for the par-71 layout was 70.942.