Boise Open: Russell Knox makes history with 59 at Hillcrest

The 28-year-old Scotsman shot the fifth such round in Web.com Tour history, and the 11th on an American major golf tour.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJuly 27, 2013 

  • THE 59 CLUB

    Eleven players in American major tour history have carded 59s in official rounds, including two in the past two weeks.

    Web.com Tour: Notah Begay III (1998 Dominion Open, Round 2), Doug Dunakey (1998 Miami Valley Open, Round 2), Jason Gore (2005 Cox Classic, Round 2), Will Wilcox (2013 Utah Championship, Round 4), Russell Knox (2013 Albertsons Boise Open, Round 2)

    PGA Tour: Al Geiberger (1977 Memphis Classic, Round 2), Chip Beck (1991 Las Vegas Classic, Round 3), David Duval (1999 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Round 5), Paul Goydos (2010 John Deere Classic, Round 1), Stuart Appleby (2010 Greenbrier Classic, Round 4)

    LPGA Tour: Annika Sorenstam (2001 Standard Register PING, Round 2)

  • Fan Facts

    • Where: Hillcrest Country Club is located at 4610 Hillcrest Drive in Boise. The par-71 course is 6,807 yards in length.

    • When: Tee times begin at 7:15 a.m. Saturday.

    • Tickets: Go to albertsonsboiseopen.com for information — and to donate to your favorite charity. Daily passes are available at the course starting at $15.

    • Parking: There is no parking at the course, but there is free parking at Borah High School (6001 Cassia Street), and a free shuttle that will run regularly throughout the tournament.

    • TV coverage on The Golf Channel (tape delayed): 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 5 to 7:30 p.m. Sunday.

    • 2012 champion: Luke Guthrie, who has earned more than $930,000 on the PGA Tour this season.

    • Next week: The Web.com’s next event is the Mylan Classic in Canonsburg, Pa.

    Chris Langrill

  • Saturday's tee times

    7:15 a.m. — I J Jang

    7:24 a.m. — Richard S. Johnson, Brian Prouty

    7:33 a.m. — Michael Connell, Todd Hamilton

    7:42 a.m. — Miguel Angel Carballo, Joe Durant

    7:51 a.m. — Todd Demsey, Dawie van der Walt

    8 a.m. — Garth Mulroy, Sung Kang

    8:09 a.m. — Jonathan Moore, Riley Arp

    8:18 a.m. — Alex Cejka, Troy Merritt

    8:27 a.m. — Aaron Goldberg, Paul Claxton

    8:36 a.m. — Marco Dawson, Shane Bertsch

    8:45 a.m. — Fran Quinn, Tyrone Van Aswegen

    8:54 a.m. — Jason Gore, Matt Hill

    9:03 a.m. — Matias O’Curry, Will Wilcox (No. 6 on money list)

    9:12 a.m. — Matt Davidson, Dusty Fielding

    9:21 a.m. — D.J. Brigman, Gavin Coles

    9:30 a.m. — Brian Duncan, Corey Nagy

    9:40 a.m. — James Sacheck, Franklin Corpening

    9:50 a.m. — Vince Covello, Kent Jones

    10 a.m. — Ashley Hall (22), Richard Scott

    10:10 a.m. — Tom Hage, Peter Tomasulo

    10:20 a.m. — Edward Loar (2), Kevin Tway

    10:30 a.m. — Tim Wilkinson (8), Wes Roach (23)

    10:40 a.m. — Ben Martin (4), John Peterson

    10:50 a.m. — Billy Hurley III, Lee Janzen

    11 a.m. — Chris Smith, Oscar Fraustro

    11:10 a.m. — Steve Wheatcroft, Kelly Kraft

    11:20 a.m. — Ryuji Imada, Danny Lee (9)

    11:30 a.m. — Spencer Levin, J.J. Killeen

    11:40 a.m. — Nick Rousey, Alexandre Rocha (24)

    11:50 a.m. — Chesson Hadley (3), Matt Bettencourt

    Noon — Will MacKenzie, Brice Garnett (19)

    12:10 p.m. — Jason Allred, Philip Pettitt, Jr.

    12:20 p.m. — Alex Prugh (15), Kevin Foley (17)

    12:30 p.m. — Adam Crawford, Michael Putnam (1)

    12:40 p.m. — Steven Alker (21), Erik Flores

    12:50 p.m. — Chad Collins, Mark Anderson (7)

    1 p.m. — Jamie Lovemark (14), Bronson La’Cassie

    1:10 p.m. — Russell Knox, Hunter Haas

— Russell Knox improved his attitude by adopting the optimistic view.

That helped him cope with a challenging golf year, when his standing on the PGA and Web.com tours doesn’t reflect his consistently solid play.

“I tell my girlfriend every night,” he said, “I’m better than the scores I’m shooting.”

He didn’t need to make that argument Friday night.

Knox hit golf’s magic number in the second round of the Albertsons Boise Open at Hillcrest Country Club.

Fifty-nine.

That’s 12-under-par for 18 holes, a tournament record by two shots (three players shot 61, most recently in 2008). And it’s just the fifth 59 in the 24-year history of the Web.com Tour. Five more players have shot 59 on the PGA Tour.

“This is a dream come true,” Knox said. “Everyone wants to have a chance to break 60 — and this was my day.”

Knox capitalized on a Hillcrest layout softened by the need to keep the grass alive in the summer heat and impeccable greens that have allowed players to produce some equally hot putting streaks.

He leads the tournament at 14-under by one shot over three players. There are 22 players at 10-under or better.

“I played a great round myself and felt like I got lapped,” said Billy Hurley III, who shot 65 while keeping Knox’s scorecard. “I felt like I shot 3-over or something out there.”

Knox shot 69 in the first round. He made three birdies, all on two-putts on par-5s.

“I kind of knew after a day like yesterday the chance of making a few was pretty high today,” he said.

He birdied No. 10, his first hole, and parred the next four. The most remarkable moment of his opening stretch was when he hit a marshal with his tee shot on No. 14.

But he caught fire on the par-4 15th, going birdie-eagle-birdie to make the turn at 5-under.

His round reached its critical moment on No. 1, when he hit the ball into a fairway bunker — his nemesis. He missed the green, but made par.

“I’ve worked hard at it and I’ve improved,” he said. “I’ve had some embarrassing shots in the past couple months.”

He followed with an epic putting run, beginning with a 50-foot eagle putt on the par-5 second hole.

“The rest was a blur,” he said.

He added a 12-footer for birdie on No. 3 and a 25-footer for birdie on No. 4.

“When I had to birdie three of the last five, that’s when it hit me, (59) is possible,” he said. “Until then, I didn’t even think about it.”

The thought didn’t make him flinch. He dropped a 30-footer for birdie on No. 5 and a 10-footer for birdie on No. 6.

That left him in need of one birdie and two pars on the last three holes. He was in that position once on the Hooters Tour and made a bogey, finishing with 61.

This time, he hit a pitching wedge from 146 yards on No. 7 and nearly holed it. He knocked in the 4-foot birdie putt to reach 12-under — two pars from history.

“To have to par the last two holes,” he said, “is difficult.”

He two-putted from 50 feet on the par-3 No. 8, which featured one of the day’s more challenging pins.

Then he grabbed his driver on the tee at the 407-yard, par-4 ninth, where many players lay up to avoid the fairway bunkers down the right side.

“Driver is my best club in the bag, and I trusted it more than any other club,” he said. “It was a no-brainer.”

He was happy with his shot, but the ball leaked a bit right and rolled into the second fairway bunker.

The ball settled 132 yards from the hole — no big deal for most tour pros, but a mental challenge for a guy who has battled fairway bunkers.

“From the second I got off the tee, walking to my ball, I just kept saying to myself, ‘You’re the best fairway bunker player in the world,’ ” he said. “And I said it about 50 times. I didn’t quite catch it (cleanly), but I was pleased to get on the green.”

The hole was in the back right of the green. His ball stopped near the front edge — about 70 feet away. His first putt was the right speed, but he played it out to the right expecting a big swing to the left. It stayed straight.

That left 7 excruciating feet between him and the 59.

His positive thinking exercises kicked in again. The stroke was pure — and the ball rolled into the heart of the cup.

“I don’t know how many chances I’ll ever get to shoot 59,” he said. “Miss wasn’t an option. It was going in.”

Knox, 28, hopes the historic round will propel him to an even better moment Sunday.

Three of the five PGA Tour 59s have led to victories, but only one has done so on the Web.com Tour.

“I’d rather win the tournament,” Knox said.

He won’t make “SportsCenter” on ESPNEWS by winning the tournament — he appeared on that show Friday night — but a victory would secure his spot on the PGA Tour for 2014.

He has split time this year between the PGA and Web.com tours. He has made 14-of-19 combined cuts, but because of the limited schedules he’s 169th in FedExCup points on the PGA Tour and 71st on the Web.com Tour money list.

He needs to make the top 125 on the PGA Tour, the top 25 on the Web.com Tour or the top 25 in the Web.com Tour Finals to get back to the PGA Tour, where he was a full-time member last year.

“I’ve played nicely all year, but because I’ve had to split my time I haven’t really gotten as far as I would have liked,” he said. “I’ve improved significantly over the last couple years. I was probably overwhelmed a little bit (as a PGA Tour rookie). ... I finished the year excellent and that gave me a bunch of momentum going into this year and I’ve just steadily improved.”

That’s been the story of his career. He grew up in Scotland and played college golf at Jacksonville. He excelled on the Hooters Tour, earned a spot on the 2011 Web.com Tour by tying for second in an event as a Monday qualifier and jumped to the PGA Tour with a 12th-place finish on the Web.com money list.

He seizes his opportunities — just like he did with that 7-foot putt on Friday.

“There are so many guys that are great at this game,” he said. “If you don’t take (advantage) of your chances, you’re not in the right sport. I’ve been fortunate to do it and I look forward to every chance I get.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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