Three lead after Round 1 of Albertsons Boise OpenSeptember 13, 2012
Joe Chemycz, Web.com Tour staff
BOISE, Idaho. -- In the 23 years that the Albertsons Boise Open has been held at Hillcrest Country Club there has never been an easier opening day than the birdie blitz that took place on Thursday. When the dust settled on a calm, perfect day, the Web.com Tour field had posted a scoring average of 69.365 - the lowest first-day number in tournament history.
A total of 104 players broke par on the 6,807-yard layout and there were only eight players who turned in scores above 2-over 73. The number of birdies (646) was nearly double the number of bogeys (365).
"We were playing golf indoors a little bit today," said Justin Hicks, whose early 6-under 65 would eventually get pushed back to a tie for eighth place.
Michael Putnam, Andrew Svoboda and Tyrone van Aswegen all posted 9-under 62s at various points in the day to share the lead atop a packed leaderboard, The trio also matched the lowest opening-round score since the tournament first arrived in the Treasure Valley back in 1990 -- Jonas Blixt in 2011.
"It was as easy as it's ever played," said Putnam, who has made four previous starts in Boise. "Zero wind and a perfect temperature."
Luke Guthrie and Sam Saunders are tied for sixth place at 64.
"This is probably the best weather we've had all year. There was no wind all day long," said van Aswegen, who was in the third-to-last group of the afternoon. "The greens were pure. Just put it on your line and the ball's going to go in the hole."
It helps when you hit it close, as van Aswegen did.
"Six footers are a lot easier to make than 12-footers," he quipped.
Thursday's course conditions were just the right medicine for those that needed to maintain their solid play in 2012 and it was the perfect remedy for those that have struggled of late, like Day, Gove and Mills.
Day, 46, missed most of last year with a broken foot and despite making six consecutive cuts entered the week at No. 95 on the money list.
"I don't hit the ball very far but it's usually pretty straight so this course suits me," he said. "The greens are good and I saw a lot of lines on the putts today. Obviously you've got to make putts to shoot those numbers."
Day led the field with just 22 putts. Guthrie, Gove, Svoboda and Weibring all had 24.
Putnam had 26 but was completely satisfied with his stress-free day.
"Today everything felt comfortable. I was never in between clubs and even if I was, I didn't feel I was in between shots," he said. "That's what happens on days like today."
Mills was just happy to be back in familiar surrounds. The Canadian-born Pennsylvania resident has made only one cut in six starts this season.
"It was fun. It was fun to play in a tournament and it was fun to play well," said Mills, who admitted he's been concentrating too much on the results each day. "It kind of started towards the middle of last year when I went on a run of not making any cuts. I wasn't hitting the ball very well and started putting pressure on myself, and then feeling more pressure over tee shots and it would not end well usually. I'm trying to forget about results and just trying to swing and swing confidently."
• Thursday weather: sunny skies, high of 87, wind NW 5 mph.
• The top-25 money winners are all entered in this week's event. Here's how the top-5 fared in the opening round:
1. Casey Wittenberg 67 T21 2. Luke List 67 T21 3. Ben Kohles 66 T12 4. Robert Streb 70 T81 5. Paul Haley II 72 T124
• Jeff Klauk, making his first start in more than a year, shot an even-par 71. Klauk, first diagnosed with epilepsy in 2006, earned his PGA TOUR card in 2009 after finishing No. 3 on the 2008 Web.com Tour money list.
He spent 2 1/2 years on Tour, highlighted by his rookie season in which he made 21 cuts in 29 starts and earned $1.24M. He started suffering from ankle and back problems in 2010 and was limited to just 13 starts.
He made only eight starts last year before his year came to an end in June.
Medication has helped him control the partial seizures that have plagued him for several years but he underwent a procedure in April of this year in which 108 electrodes were attached to the inside of his skull in an attempt to locate the source of the seizures.
"It was good," he said of his first competitive round in 14 months. "I was a little nervous on the first tee, as I though I'd be. I made some silly mistakes, which I kind of figured was going to happen, but overall it's pretty good. It's been a long time. I just have been in tournament conditions. You really have to concentrate on every shot instead of just playing at home with your friends."
Klauk hit 10 of 14 fairways, 11 of 18 greens and had 28 putts but his score of 71 puts him T105.
• Ryan Hietala, a Boise transplant, shot a 3-under 68 (T39). He announced earlier in the week that he isn't retiring but rather preparing to "take a break" from competitive golf after this event. The 38-year old will be assuming the assistant coaching duties for the men's golf team at Boise State, among other things.
Hietala has made 234 career starts on the Web.com Tour and won twice -- 2005 Chitimacha Louisiana Open, 2008 Cox Classic. His wife, Jennifer, who played on the BSU women's golf team, is due to give birth to the couple's first child within the next week.
"The last three years have been tough financially for us," he said. "I haven't been playing great and I've been spending a lot of money and incurring a lot of debt, which golfers do. That's part of the game. It's time for me to be a good husband and a good father."
Hietala joined the Tour in 1999 and played one season on the PGA TOUR (2006) but has decided to join Head Coach Kevin Burton's staff and give up the nomadic life of a touring pro.
"It could be right now, it could be Sunday. Her due date is the 27th but the doctor said it's going to be before then," said the expectant father. "The best case scenario would be lifting the trophy and giving it a kiss and then going to the hospital. I'm having a little girl and I know she's going to melt my heart."
• J.J. Killeen, the Web.com Tour's 2011 Player of the Year making his first start on this Tour this year, fired an even-par 71. Killeen was a two-time winner last year and the Tour's leading money winner. Thus far in his rookie season on the PGA TOUR he has made 13 cuts in 29 starts and is No. 153 on the money list with $371,001. His only top-10 finish came at the True South Classic, where he was solo eighth.
• Patrick Cantlay, a two-time All-American at UCLA who turned pro earlier this year, carded a 2-under 69. Cantlay, 20, decided to forego his final two years of eligibility with the Bruins. Since becoming a professional in late June, Cantlay has made five of six cuts on the PGA TOUR but his T31 at the Wyndham Championship last month is his best finish thus far.
Cantlay, who was the No. 1 ranked amateur in the world for a record 55 weeks before turning pro, got into the Albertsons Boise Open as a Monday qualifier. He shot a 63 to win medalist honors by three shots.
Cantlay won four tournaments in his freshman season at UCLA and was named winner of the Haskins Award, the Jack Nicklaus Player of the Year and the National Freshman of the Year.
• Casey Martin, 40, shot a 3-under 68 in his first Web.com Tour round in nearly six years. Martin, the men's head golf coach at the University of Oregon, made his last start on Tour (and his last cut) at the 2006 Oregon Classic (T59). Martin, winner of the 1998 Lakeland Classic, was back in the spotlight earlier this summer when he qualified for the U.S. Open at the Olympic Club. He posted scores of 74-75 and missed the cut. Martin is making his seventh career start in this event -- he has made the cut three times -- and his first since 2005. Martin's best finish in Boise was a T30 in 2004.
• There are four past champions entered this week:
Year won Player Score Position 1995 Frank Lickliter 71 T105 2002 Jason Gore 68 T39 2007 Jon Mills 65 T8 2011 Jason Kokrak 73 T138
• Scott Parel had a pair of eagles in Thursday's opener, both on par-5s (2, 16).
• Andy Bare had a hole-in-one at the 121-yard, 17th hole. Bare used a pitching wedge for his ace, which is the 23rd in tournament history and the 10th on that particular hole.
• Course statistics this week:
Front 9 (36) Back 9 (35) Total (71) Round 1 35.256 34.109 69.365
• The Web.com Tour moves to Texas next week for the WNB Golf Classic. The tournament will be held at Midland Country Club Sept. 17-23. Last year Danny Lee made a par on the first playoff hole to defeat fellow rookie Harris English for his first career title.