BOISE — The best college golfers, like the top college football players, used to go straight to the big league.
Now many of those golfers end up on the Web.com Tour, which winds its way through Boise this week. The Albertsons Boise Open is Thursday through Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club.
The PGA Tour's new qualifying format, implemented last year, removed the direct route from college to the top tour. The change shows with one look at this year's Web.com Tour money list.
Of the players ranked in the top 25 - the ones who, as of today, would earn playing privileges on the PGA Tour for the 2014-15 season - six are rookies who turned pro in the past two years.
That includes leading money-winner Carlos Ortiz, who graduated from North Texas in August 2013, and Sebastian Cappelen, who tied for ninth in the NCAA men's golf tournament in May and won his first start on the Web.com Tour in June.
Also, Alabama star Cory Whitsett, who helped the Crimson Tide win the past two NCAA titles, is expected to make his third start of the season this week.
"I like (qualifying) this way," said Cappelen. "Obviously I can say that, now that I'm on here. People who are still trying to get on here, it might seem like a long way to the PGA Tour. But I think it's healthy for everyone."
The old system allowed new pros to enter the PGA Tour Qualifying Tournament and advance directly to the PGA Tour. The new system sends players from Q-School to the Web.com Tour, where they must earn a promotion to the PGA Tour.
The top 25 money-winners on the Web.com Tour get PGA Tour cards for the following season. The next 50 finishers on the Web.com Tour and the players ranked Nos. 126 to 200 on the PGA Tour compete in the four-event Web.com Tour Finals for an additional 25 PGA Tour cards.
The Boise Open, with its $800,000 purse, has attracted all of the top 25 money-winners this year.
Cappelen will make his fourth start. He got into the Air Capital Classic in Wichita, Kan., through a Monday qualifier and won. That secured his spot on the Web.com Tour for the rest of this season and all of next season, but it also earned him enough money that he ranks 22nd on the money list.
"It's like I just skipped 100 steps on a ladder on the way to where I want to be," he said. "I felt like this is kind of cheating, but it is possible and I did it. I've just got to take it from where I am now and see where I can take it."
Ortiz, who is from Mexico, can advance immediately to the PGA Tour with a third win. He won early-season events in Mexico and Panama, and finished third in Colombia and Georgia.
He chose to play out his last summer as an amateur last year, rather than chase the Web.com Tour like Cappelen did this year.
Ortiz used the time to complete some changes in his game.
"Everybody thinks, 'You're playing great. What are you doing?' " he said. "It's not what you're doing right now. It's what you did maybe six months ago. I really practiced hard. It was part of my path to be here."
Ortiz, 23, hopes to build momentum late this summer the way he did last summer. He's a lock to make the final top 25 and advance to the PGA Tour, which begins the 2014-15 season in October.
"I'm having great success here, and I want to try to continue learning from this so I'll be where I want to be for October," he said. " I think if I keep working hard and give my best, I'm going to be successful on the next tour, too."
Cappelen, 24, came to the U.S. from Denmark to pursue his golf career. Some European players skip college, turn pro immediately and play on the European tour.
Others go the American college route. In Denmark, Cappelen said, it isn't feasible to play sports while attending college.
At Arkansas, he became the school's first four-time golf All-American and won the Southeastern Conference title in 2013.
"The golf courses never get this good in Denmark," Cappelen said. "We don't have the right resources. We have some stupid laws that we can't water the golf courses. We can water the greens, but if we have sun for a week the fairways are yellow."
His first act as a pro was to try to qualify for the U.S. Open. He lost in a playoff at a sectional event, the last stage.
Because he missed the U.S. Open, he entered the qualifier in Wichita.
"You could say that the best thing to happen to me was missing the U.S. Open," he said, "because otherwise I probably wouldn't have gone to Wichita."
The win, though, wasn't enough to clinch a spot on the PGA Tour for next season. He probably needs one more strong finish.
"It's very nice to have some security," he said of his guaranteed spot on the Web.com Tour through next season. "Once that goes through your mind, then you realize, 'I can make it to the PGA Tour.' Now the pressure is right back on."
BOISE OPEN FAN FACTS
Junior clinic today
The Idaho Statesman Junior Clinic is at 5 p.m. Tuesday at Hillcrest Country Club. Web.com Tour pros will give 1-on-1 lessons to the children in attendance.
Other events this week
Albertsons Boise Open ($800,000 purse): 72 holes, Thursday through Sunday. Play runs from 7:15 a.m. to 6 p.m. for the first two rounds and 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the weekend. Daily tickets are $15 (17 and younger are free). Weekly tickets are $35.
Curtis Stigers Live on the Fairway: The encore of last years popular concert begins at 7 p.m. Friday on No. 10. All ticketed golf fans can attend, but there are separate tickets for chairs near the stage ($30) or preferred lawn seating ($20). Family Day: Visit the Pepsi Pavilion from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday for family-friendly activities.
Bisquick Breakfast at Hillcrest: The Pepsi Pavilion hosts a free pancake breakfast for all ticketed fans from 9 to 11 a.m. Sunday.
Free parking with shuttle is available in the airport overflow lot at Victory and Orchard.
The first 500 fans Thursday-Friday and first 1,000 fans Saturday-Sunday will receive 25th anniversary commemorative items. They include a hat, handheld fan, water bottle and tote bag. Fans can sign up for a chance to win a car. If a player aces No. 17 in the final round, a winner will be drawn from the entries. Hunter Haas aced that hole in the final round last year. Fans can enter a daily putting competition for a chance to putt for a car on Sunday.
Boise Open on TV
Live broadcasts air from 3 to 5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday on the Golf Channel.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat