Sucher leads Albertsons Boise Open after adjustment to putter

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJuly 18, 2014 

You'll hear countless jokes about golfers blaming the equipment rather than the operator for their scores.

But hey, sometimes they're right.

Zack Sucher on Tuesday visited one of the equipment-repair vans stationed near the driving range at Hillcrest Country Club with doubts about his putter.

The technician told him the club was 2 degrees more upright than it was six weeks ago.

He bent it back into place - and Sucher responded by shooting an 11-under 60 in the first round of the Albertsons Boise Open, the best round of his life, second-best in the tournament's 25-year history and best on the Tour this season.

"I don't know if it was from the airlines or what it was," Sucher said of the damage to his putter. "But it felt a whole lot better when he bent it back. … So I've been looking forward to it all week."

Sucher leads Steven Alker of New Zealand by two shots. Alker shot a first-round 62 for the second straight year. Nick Taylor of Canada is three shots back.

Sucher one-putted each of the first 10 greens and finished with 24 total putts. He made five birdies and an eagle in a six-hole stretch, starting at the par-4 15th hole and ending at the par-5 second. His birdie-eagle streak is the best on tour this season.

Sucher added a long birdie putt on No. 4 to reach 9-under and began doing the math in his head, just as he did after a similar start earlier this year in Wichita, Kan. Golf's magic number is 59 - the score Russell Knox shot in the second round of the Boise Open last year.

"All right, this is pretty doable - I need to get some birdies going here," Sucher thought after No. 4.

"I needed three more," he said.

He parred Nos. 5 and 6 but kept the dream alive with a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 7 that slipped in the right edge of the hole.

He faced another 15-footer on No. 8, but misread the putt and missed about 18 inches left.

He bombed a drive past the bunkers on No. 9 and still had 59 on his mind. He needed an eagle on the par-4.

"I had to get a wedge in my hand to try to knock it in," he said.

And he almost did. The ball stopped 3 feet left of the hole, leaving an easy birdie putt for the 60. Sucher's previous best score - tournament or otherwise - was a 61. His previous best on the Tour was a 63 in Wichita.

"Probably the best round I've ever played," he said of Thursday's effort.

Three more good rounds could send the 27-year-old to the PGA Tour for the first time in 2014-15.

Sucher ranks 23rd on the Tour money list this year. It's his first full season on the tour.

He has finished fifth, sixth, 10th and 11th but hasn't quite earned enough money to clinch a spot in the top 25 and the resulting promotion.

"This is the right way to start an event," he said. "It makes it a little easier."

Alker has taken a different path to nearly the same spot on the money list as Sucher. Alker is 19th largely thanks to an 11-hole playoff win at the Cleveland Open in early June. He hasn't made a cut since and is 4-for-11 on the year.

In the past six years, Alker has posted four top-10 finishes - three of them wins.

"I like being in that situation," Alker said of contending. "That's No. 1. Normally when I feel pretty good and am in the hunt, I give it a run."

He certainly felt good Thursday. He birdied four straight holes, from Nos. 12 through 15, after starting on the back nine. He added four birdies on the front, closing with a 15-footer on No. 9 for a 62.

"I just hit everything where I was looking," Alker said. "… The course this week, it's soft, it's receptive, you can fire at some pins. You've just got to go after it."

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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