BOISE — The man responsible for managing the Hillcrest Country Club golf course knew right away what a July date and not the customary September spot on the calendar would mean for the Albertsons Boise Open.
Theyre going to eat it up. Theyre going to come out here and the greens arent going to be as fast. They arent going to be as firm. We said that from the day they picked the date, said Joe Aholt, the course superintendent.
Aholt has been proven correct as the Web.com Tour golfers took full advantage of Hillcrests softer greens.
Russell Knox fired a course-record 59 on Friday. He set the tournament record for lowest 36-hole score. Philip Pettitt Jr., the third-round leader at 18-under par, matched the tournament record for lowest 54-hole score. The cut (6-under) was the lowest in the 24-year history of the event. The field set the record for lowest scoring average on Friday and then again Saturday.
It was taking dead aim. Its as soft as Ive ever seen this place, said Will MacKenzie, who is tied for third at 16-under entering Sundays final round.
If this were college football, the entire field at the Boise Open would be ejected after the first two rounds for targeting a defenseless receiver.
If this were boxing, the trainer would have thrown in the towel fearing for the safety of his man in the ring.
If this were baseball, the last man on the bench would be pitching to save the bullpen.
I couldnt have picked a worse week, Aholt said from a superintendents perspective.
Keeping the course green and healthy during the intense July heat means lots and lots of water. That makes for a soft course. The heat wave earlier this month certainly didnt help.
You can put a lot of stress on turf when the weather is in the 70s and it wont die on you, Aholt said. But when its 100 degrees, thats not the case.
Hillcrests short layout for the pros, at least and it leads a scoring bonanza for these guys.
A birdie-fest, golfer Kevin Tway said.
There were 99 rounds in the 60s on the par-71 course on Thursday, including 14 rounds of 65 or better. Knox, of course, led the way with a 59 on Friday, but 114 players shot in the 60s.
Saturday morning was more of the same. Michael Connell shot a 10-under 61 which would have tied the tournament record before Friday. Will Wilcox fired a 62. Tway and former Boise State player Troy Merritt shot 63s.
But a funny thing happened Saturday afternoon: Hillcrest fought back.
The wind blew. The greens, baking in the 100-degree sun, got firmer. The scores leveled off and stopped going lower and lower and lower.
The greens are getting a little bit crispy, MacKenzie said after his round.
It definitely blew more on the backside than it did on the front side, said Pettitt Jr., whose 63 came late in the day.
Still, no one is ever going to confuse Hillcrest with a U.S. Open or British Open setup. It is a scoring course, which makes it fun for the players and fun for the spectators, who want to see birdies and eagles. Knoxs 59 is something to cherish. Last years winner, dont forget, shot 22-under.
The move from September has many benefits for the event, not the least of which is getting the tournament out of the considerable shadow of Boise State football on the local sporting calendar. If it also means a few more red numbers and the excitement of 59s and 61s and 62s thats a perfectly acceptable trade.
Plus Aholt has learned a few things from this years event and course setup. Hopefully enough to give Hillcrest a fighting chance against the Web.com Tours best next year.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444, Twitter: @murphsturph