Swings of the Boise Open
Tyler Aldridge opened with a 4-under-par 67 on Thursday in the first round of the Albertsons Boise Open as he tries to regain his status on the PGA Tour. He is three shots off the lead going into Friday’s second round.
Aldridge played the PGA Tour full time this season for the first time since 2009. He finished in the top 25 four times and earned $517,738 to finish 140th in the FedExCup standings.
The top 125 players retained exempt status on the PGA Tour for 2016-17. Aldridge will have at least conditional status, which he figures will get him into 10-15 events. He also will be exempt on the Web.com Tour.
So he’s in a decent position regardless of how he fares in the Web.com Tour Finals.
“I’m looking forward to getting back and having a better year,” Aldridge, 32, said. “I have conditional status next year, but I want to get full status back.”
Aldridge’s highlights included a tie for 12th at the Sanderson Farms Championship in November, a tie for 17th at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and a tie for 14th at the RBC Heritage.
He made 14 cuts in 28 events — a huge improvement over his rookie year in 2009, when he was 3-for-17.
“I put myself in position (to make the top 125),” he said. “I just couldn’t quite get four rounds together when I needed it.”
Still, he said, the experience was a “dream come true.”
“I played with some of my boyhood idols and played the best courses in the world and competed against the best players in the world,” he said.
SABBATINI ON THE WAY BACK
Rory Sabbatini, a 40-year-old South African, is one of the most accomplished players in the Boise Open field. He has six PGA Tour victories and 24 other top-three finishes. He has won more than $29.4 million — ranking 27th on the all-time list.
But he stumbled this year while fighting a cervical-disc injury, finishing 191st in the FedExCup standings. That sent him to the Web.com Tour Finals to try to regain full status on the PGA Tour.
Last week, in his Web.com Tour debut, Sabbatini tied for sixth and all but clinched one of the 25 PGA Tour cards handed out based on money earned during the finals. At most, he needs one more paycheck in the final three events.
And he took a big step in that direction with a first-round 65 at Hillcrest.
“This year was a bad year,” he said. “I did the stupid thing, trying to play injured. I finally had to succumb to having surgery. So be it. Looking back at it now, I should have done this two and a half years ago when I first found out about it, before I let it get to the level that it did. At least I’m starting to feel better. My strength is starting to return. I’m starting to hit the ball more like what I’m used to and things are starting to come around.”
Sabbatini could have sat out the finals and used his one-time exemption for being in the top 50 on the career money list for the 2016-17 season. That’s what former U.S. Open champion Geoff Ogilvy plans to do.
Sabbatini also is guaranteed about a half-dozen starts next year on a medical exemption because he missed six weeks after his surgery.
“Why burn an exemption that I have?” he said. “I might as well take advantage of this. ... I had a lot of options. I could sit at home for a month and a half or come out and do some work.”
ABOUT THE LEADERS
Adam Schenk, Sam Ryder and Keith Mitchell shot 64s to tie for the first-round lead.
▪ Schenk, 24, graduated from Purdue in 2014, played a season in Latin America and is a rookie on the Web.com Tour. He needs a strong performance in the finals to make the PGA Tour. He made a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 18 to take the lead, which held until late in the afternoon wave. “The competition gets even better,” he said of the finals. “To get a PGA Tour card would be awesome, but I would just be happy if I play well.”
▪ Ryder, 26, has finished second twice this year as a Web.com Tour rookie. He also needs to perform well in the finals to get a promotion. Ryder birdied the first four holes and eagled the par-5 16th hole after his drive left him an easy 7-iron approach. He’s aggressive with the driver. “It’s a weapon for me,” he said.
▪ Mitchell, 24, also progressed from Latin America in 2015 to the Web.com Tour in 2016. He has missed the past two cuts and was in a little danger of missing the finals, ranking 70th on the money list. He has tried to relax this week. “Everyone’s dream is to make it to the PGA Tour,” he said. “It was kind of getting in my way, and I was grinding and trying too hard. This week, we kind of came in with a new attitude to kind of relax and have some fun.”
CHANCE MEETING IN BOISE
Brett Drewitt of Australia, who opened the Boise Open with a 65, met his girlfriend in Boise after missing the cut in last year’s event. He hung out in town for the weekend.
“It kind of feels like a home event,” he said. “She’s got a lot of friends here.”
FROM COACH TO TOUR PRO
Ryan Brehm, who shot a 65 in the first group of the day, will be on the PGA Tour next season — just a few years removed from a short stint as a college coach.
Brehm became an assistant coach at Michigan State after graduating from there. He spent two years in that role, including time as the interim head coach.
But he quickly realized he’d rather play tour golf. He spent 2014-15 on PGA Tour Canada, then earned his Web.com Tour card for 2016.
He clinched a spot on the PGA Tour by winning the final regular-season event this year, the WinCo Foods Portland Open. He tied for third the week before in Knoxville, Tenn.
“I didn’t really think about what it meant to me until I got home ... and then it started to click,” he said of the Portland win.
Now 30, he says he “was finally ready” to compete with elite players.
“I always thought I could, but you just never know when and if,” he said. “Each week that I play well, I start to believe a little bit more. The real challenge is within yourself.”
Boise Open fan facts
▪ Where: Hillcrest Country Club, Boise
▪ Friday: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.
▪ Saturday: 9 a.m.; leaders tee off at approximately 11:30 a.m.
▪ Sunday: 9 a.m.; leaders tee off at approximately 11:30 a.m. (awards ceremony after 4 p.m.)
▪ Who: Top 75 players on the Web.com Tour, Nos. 126-200 on the PGA Tour and select other golfers
▪ Purse: $1 million ($180,000 for winner)
▪ TV: The Golf Channel (12:30 to 3:30 p.m., Friday)
▪ Tickets: $15 daily grounds, $25 weekly grounds ($35 at the gate), $50 weekly clubhouse ($70 at the gate). Youths 17 and younger get in free with a ticketed adult. Purchase, or get more info, at albertsonsboiseopen .com/tickets-info.
▪ Parking: Free shuttle from the airport economy lot at Victory and Orchard.
▪ Free post-golf concerts at the course: Pilot Error (Friday) and Lounge on Fire (Saturday).