Notebook: Boise boasts strongest field of the year

July 23, 2013

COMEBACK STORY – Sunday’s Midwest Classic presented by Cadillac winner Jamie Lovemark was on top of the world after a spectacular 2010 rookie season that saw him become the youngest leading money winner and youngest Player of the Year in Tour history at the age of 22. Things changed quickly though when back woes sidelined the 2007 NCAA individual champion during his 2011 rookie season on the PGA TOUR.  The USC Trojan underwent back surgery that August before returning in 2012, splitting time between the two tours. Lovemark began 2013 with conditional status on the Tour as a past champion. After missing six cuts in his first 10 outings, things clearly started to improve once summer rolled around as Lovemark recorded a T18 in the Rex Hospital Open and a T7 at the Utah Championship the week before his win.  In his last three starts, he has climbed from 99th to 14th in earnings.  “It feels great to be playing well again and this win is a huge relief for me,” Lovemark said in accepting the winner’s trophy.

REGULAR SEASON EVENT NO. 17 OF 21 – The march to the end of the Regular Season reaches tournament week No. 17 of 21 this week in Boise.  The first 25 of 50 PGA TOUR playing positions for 2013-14 will be determined at event No. 21, the Cox Classic in Omaha, Neb., on Aug. 25th.  It will also be the cutoff to determine the top 75 who will advance to the Tour Finals, where the second 25 spots will be up for grabs as well as the all-important individual eligibility rankings for the TOUR's new wraparound season.  This week’s “bubble boys” are No. 25 Daniel Chopra and No. 75 Josh Broadaway.

STRONGEST FIELD OF THE YEAR – With a $775,000 purse (sixth largest) and the Regular Season marching to its conclusion, Boise will have the strongest field of the year to date – every top-10 player, 24 of 25, 56 of 60 and 88 of 100 are entered (as of Tuesday morning). 

ALUM WOODY AUSTIN WINS IN MISSISSIPPI – The Sanderson Farms Championship looked like a Tour reunion. Of its first 25 finishers, 20 were former Tour members.  Winner Woody Austin played the Tour in 1994 and 1998.  With reduced PGA TOUR status prior to Sunday’s win in Mississippi, the 49-year-old Austin has played in 28 Tour events the last two years, including 10 this year.  His best finish was a T5 at the Stadion Classic at UGA in May.  Austin chalked up alumni win No. 361 on the PGA TOUR.

COMPETITION FOR NO. 1 – Leading money winner Michael Putnam has separated himself from his fellow Tour competitors thus far in 2013. With a $100,401 lead over Edward Loar, the Washington state native has his eye on finishing the 21-event Regular Season atop the money list when it wraps up at the Cox Classic next month.  But with this week’s Albertsons Boise Open and four events after that, Putnam is certainly not a lock. Being the Regular Season leading money winner will bring plenty of prestige, but it also delivers two critical competitive rewards - fully-exempt status on the PGA TOUR in 2013-14 and an invitation to the 2014 PLAYERS.

UP AND DOWN KIND OF YEAR – Mark Anderson has had what college basketball analysis Dick Vitale would call a “Dow Joneser” kind of season thus far.  The 2008 University of South Carolina graduate won the BMW Charity Pro-Am presented by SYNNEX Corporation in May and was runner-up Sunday in Kansas City.  The two finishes have propelled him to seventh on the money list and a likely return to the PGA TOUR in 2013-14.  Of his 11 other starts, five have been missed cuts.  The other six have seen Anderson finish between T33 and T53.

BEN HOGAN AWARD WINNER AND IDAHO NATIVE CHRIS WILLIAMS IN FIELD –  Collegiate and amateur standout Chris Williams has received a sponsor exemption to play in his home state's Tour event. Williams was born and raised in Moscow, Idaho. At the the University of Washington, Williams won numerous tournaments and earned All-American honors.  His most prestigious honor was being named 2013 Ben Hogan Award winner in May, which goes to the outstanding male amateur and collegiate golfer of the year. Earlier this year he was No. 1 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking.  In June, Williams turned professional, debuting at the PGA TOUR’s Travelers Championship (T30).  Boise will be his second Tour start as a professional.  He finished T39 at the recent Utah Championship.

BOISE EVENT TURNS 24 / ALBERTSONS EXTENDS – The Albertsons Boise Open will be played for the 24th year in a row in 2013. Likewise, Hillcrest CC will host the Tour event for the 24th year.  Hillcrest and Highland Springs Country Club in Springfield, Mo. are the only two courses to host Tour events all 24 years. Boise, Springfield, Knoxville and Wichita are the four cities that have been on the Tour schedule every year since 1990.  Albertsons is the only lead sponsor that has been affiliated with a Tour event all 24 years of the Tour's existence. The company recently entered into a three-year extension, taking their agreement with the Jeff Sanders Promotions and the TOUR through 2016.

THREE-MORE YEARS IN KANSAS CITY, TOO – The Kansas City Crusaders and the PGA TOUR announced last week they have extended the Tour’s Midwest Classic presented by Cadillac tournament agreement for three years, through 2016. “The Crusaders have done an excellent job in building the foundation of the Midwest Classic the last three years,” said Tour president Bill Calfee. “We see a bright future for the event.”

A CHANGE IN PLANS – Teenage sensation Jordan Spieth had a goal beginning this year – to get his PGA TOUR card.  “I thought if I was playing well, I’d be playing on the Tour, which is the new pathway to the PGA TOUR,” he said last week in Scotland.  “I figured if I got off to a good start in South America, which ended up happening, then I could play that way the whole year and get on TOUR next year.  I went to Puerto Rico (T2) and that week just changed everything.”  A subsequent T7 in Tampa and a few more top 10s, followed by Spieth’s John Deere Classic win on July 14th, totally changed the game plan indeed.

MONDAY SUCCESSES – 2002 Buick Classic winner Chris Smith was a successful Monday qualifier for the third week in a row in Kansas City.  He made the cut for the second time and enjoyed his best finish in four 2013 Tour starts, a T14.  “I’ve been doing these Monday qualifiers and they are brutal,” the 44-year-old and five-time Tour winner said last week.  “There are just so many good players out here and I’m hoping to play well enough to get into the reshuffle later this year and perhaps get into the final four or five events. The last couple of months I’ve felt much better and more comfortable with my game. I feel confident again.”

NEXT WEEK – It’s on to the Pittsburgh area for the Mylan Classic at Southpointe Golf Club in Washington Country, Pa. Aug. 1-4. The tournament will honor Arnold Palmer at a private charity fundraising dinner on Tuesday evening.