Finals update: Zach Bauchou wants to join college teammate Viktor Hovland on TOUR
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Contending into weekend at Albertsons Boise Open, where Hovland earned TOUR card in 2019
Written by Kevin Prise @PGATOURKevin
BOISE, Idaho – Earlier this summer, Zach Bauchou attempted U.S. Open qualifying in Columbus, Ohio, with his college teammate Viktor Hovland on the bag – the day after Hovland won the Memorial Tournament presented by Workday.
Bauchou didn’t advance, but it might have been the best thing for his season. He finished fourth at the next week’s Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas Wichita Open – after earning a spot in the field via a Sunday qualifier for a sponsor exemption – kick-starting a run toward the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, where he’ll have a chance to join his Oklahoma State teammate Hovland on TOUR.
Bauchou, 27, has opened the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron in rounds of 66-65, just three back of co-leaders Ben Kohles and Chan Kim into the weekend at the first of four Korn Ferry Tour Finals events. This event just happens to be where Hovland clinched his first TOUR card with a runner-up finish in 2019, and Hovland texted Bauchou earlier this week, saying he liked the course and the city.
Bauchou has found the Potato State to his liking as well, and after entering the week at No. 86 on the Points List, he’s playing his way into legitimate consideration for a TOUR card across the four-event Finals – including this week. The top 75 after the Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship (the third Finals event) will secure full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status and advance to the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, after which the top 30 will earn 2024 PGA TOUR membership.
Bauchou grew up next to a golf course – London Downs Golf Club in Forest, Virginia – and he began competing in U.S. Kids Golf tournaments from age 6 or so. He has been chasing the TOUR dream ever since, he said, and the Korn Ferry Tour Finals could be his catalyst to that dream.
Quite the turn of events, after beginning the 2023 season with zero Korn Ferry Tour status.
“From age 6 or 7, I would say that was the only thing I ever wanted to do, was play the PGA TOUR and be the best,” Bauchou said after the second round in Boise. “Competing is fun, trying to beat people is fun, and golf is an endless pursuit of always trying to get better.”
Bauchou had been playing a mix of mini-tours and Monday qualifiers before that fateful week in Wichita; after that, he shifted his focus toward playing as many Korn Ferry Tour events as possible, with an eye on earning a Finals berth. (Finals fields are determined off the season-long standings, with progressive field reductions after each event. The Albertsons Boise Open featured a starting field of 156 players.)
Bauchou added a top-20 at the Utah Championship presented by Zions Bank, playing on a sponsor exemption, which earned him a spot in the following week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship, where he finished fifth. Not only did he comfortably qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, he’s well positioned to chase his first TOUR card.
Perhaps that missed U.S. Open qualifier worked out for the best.
“Last time I caddied for him and he didn't play all that well … we kind of had a heart-to-heart conversation,” Hovland said after Friday’s second round at the TOUR Championship, where he shares the lead with Collin Morikawa in the race for the FedExCup title. “I was pretty honest with him and what I thought about his game, and ever since then he seems to have played well, so I'm really, really happy for him because they're very -- there aren't that many guys that work harder than him. So it's fun it to see that he's playing well.”
Bauchou is indeed playing well, and he’s got plenty to play for – he resides in Edmond, Oklahoma, with his wife Victoria, and they are expecting their first child in January.
He’s playing for the love of the game as well – which has increased this summer with the help of a 48-inch putter. He had been struggling with speed on the greens, he said, and the long putter has done the trick.
“It was a last-resort option,” Bauchou said Friday. “That was not the first place I looked, and it was going to be about the last place I looked. But I’m glad it’s helped me.”
With 14 birdies through two rounds in Boise, safe to say it’s helping.
Ben Kohles (No. 1 on Points List, projected No. 1 with a win). A two-time winner this season, Kohles would earn a Three-Victory Promotion to the TOUR with a win in Boise. After rounds of 66-62, including a 222-yard ace at the par-3 eighth hole Friday, he’s positioned to do just that.
Chan Kim (No. 12 on Points List, projected No. 2 with a win). After winning last week’s Magnit Championship in New Jersey, Kim has a chance to go back-to-back. The eight-time Japan Golf Tour winner has matched Kohles’ 66-62 start to the week at Hillcrest CC, and he’s on the verge of cementing his first TOUR card with a strong weekend.
Carter Jenkins (No. 45, projected No. 29). The North Carolina alum has navigated Hillcrest CC to the tune of 65-64 this week, one back of the co-leaders into the weekend as he eyes his first Korn Ferry Tour title. The seven-year pro has recorded eight top-25s in 18 starts this season, including a T10 last week in Omaha, and there’s no time like the Finals to elevate his game in pursuit of his first TOUR card.
Patrick Newcomb (No. 83, projected No. 68): The Murray State alum shot up the board with a second-round 63, and he stands T7 into the weekend at 11-under total. Newcomb is clawing for a top-75 spot that would cement full 2024 Korn Ferry Tour status – after the Albertsons, two events remain until this list is finalized, but the affable Kentuckian wouldn’t mind cementing that position with a strong weekend in Boise.
The Korn Ferry Tour Finals features progressive field reductions after each event; the second Finals event, the Simmons Bank Open for the Snedeker Foundation, will have a 144-player field, filled directly off the season-long Points List.
Nos. 139-144 on the Points List all missed the cut in Boise, while six players outside the top 144 advanced to the weekend, with an eye on qualifying for the Simmons Bank Open.
Players who can guarantee themselves a spot at the Simmons Bank Open:
No. 146 Willie Mack III (T58; 6 under)
No. 154 Alex Weiss (T58; 6 under)
No. 161 RJ Manke (T22; 9 under)
No. 162 Joel Thelen (T32; 8 under)
No. 166 Vince Whaley (T13; 10 under)
No. 173 James Nicholas (T32; 8 under)
For the first three Finals events, the Points List will extend to fill the field to the corresponding numbers of players (e.g., the field for the 156-player Albertsons Boise Open extended to No. 173 James Nicholas, as 17 eligible players elected not to compete).
Kevin Prise is an associate editor for the PGA TOUR. He is on a lifelong quest to break 80 on a course that exceeds 6,000 yards and to see the Buffalo Bills win a Super Bowl. Follow Kevin Prise on Twitter.