Matthew NeSmith wins first title, earns PGA TOUR card at Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco
Matthew NeSmith made a 15-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole to post a 19-under total and a one-stroke victory over Viktor Hovland and Brandon Hagy at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco. With the win, NeSmith moved to the top spot in The Finals 25 and secured his PGA TOUR card for the first time.
“It’s a huge dream,” said NeSmith, who closed with a 7-under 64. “I’ve been hanging around on mini-tours for a couple of years and I played in Canada until finally getting out here to the Korn Ferry Tour. I played solid all year long, but I started playing really well towards the end of the year, got into the Finals and then anything can happen.”
There was constant change atop Sunday’s leaderboard, as four different players held solo leads. Playing in the fifth-to-last group, Hagy took his turn as the leader when he birdied the last two holes to post a final-round 64 and take the clubhouse lead at 18-under.
Two groups later, NeSmith made two key up-and-downs – for birdie on the par-5 16th and for par on the par-3 17th – and approached the 18th tee tied with Hagy at 18-under. After pulling his drive into the left rough, NeSmith attacked the back-left hole location and hit a wedge to 15 feet, setting up his winning putt.
“I was just happy to have a look in all honesty. I didn’t really know what I was going to have from down there,” said NeSmith. “I ended up having a great shot, hit it perfectly. I had an uphill look moving a bit right to left, and I just wanted to give it a chance. Luckily it went in the middle.”
Twelve months ago, NeSmith was finishing his second season on Mackenzie Tour-PGA TOUR Canada having missed the cut in seven out of 10 starts. He earned status on the Korn Ferry Tour by finishing T22 at Q-School, and he improved his status through the reshuffle by finishing T9 in the season-opening Bahamas Great Exuma Classic at Sandals Emerald Bay.
In his rookie year on the Korn Ferry Tour, NeSmith went on to tally three top-10s in the regular season and finish No. 46 on the points list. After his most recent top-10, a T8 at the Ellie Mae Classic, PGA TOUR player Kyle Thompson called NeSmith and offered some advice that helped him complete his journey to the TOUR.
“He told me to try and do everything slow. I tried to walk as slow as I possibly could,” NeSmith said about the advice from one of his mentors. “Once you start going fast and something goes wrong then you can get in your own way just by not being able to calm down. I needed some time to walk a bit slower and hit some good shots.”
With NeSmith in the clubhouse at 19-under, Hovland still had a chance to force a playoff, as he birdied No. 16 to cut his deficit to two. After a par on No. 17, the Norwegian nearly forced extra holes with a heroic eagle on No. 18, but his approach settled three feet from the hole and he had to settle for a birdie and a T2 finish.
Hovland led by one through 54 holes, the second time he’s led/co-lead in The Finals (first round, Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship). Though he didn’t break through for his first professional victory, Hovland backed up his T11 finish from last week and earned his promotion to the PGA TOUR next season.
“I was trying to win the golf tournament. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t perform better today,” said Hovland. “There were some guys that went low today and played well, but I felt like I left some shots out there. That’s always a little disappointing but I think in a couple of days I will refresh and be happy about going to the TOUR.”
Norwegian sensation Viktor Hovland carded a 7-under 64 on Saturday to leap to the top of the leaderboard at 15-under through three rounds of the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco. The low round positions him to earn his first PGA TOUR card with a strong finish on Sunday at Hillcrest Country Club.
“This week in Boise has a chance to be my first professional victory, so it could be pretty special here for me,” said Hovland. “If I happen to win, then I’m going to look back at this week as a pretty sweet week for me. I really like it here – the backdrop has mountains everywhere. The course is kind of narrow off the tee, you have to hit it straight…You have to take some irons off the tee and play the angles; I think it’s a great course.”
After back-to-back 67s over the first two rounds, Hovland came out of the gate hot, birdieing four of his first five holes to jump into contention. He turned in 4-under 32 before adding birdies at Nos. 12, 15 and 16 to reach 15-under. The 21-year-old ranks T2 in putting average and T12 in driving distance so far this week.
Despite making his debut in Boise, Hovland enjoyed a strong crowd throughout his round, growing especially large as he claimed the lead during the back nine.
“The crowd support has been crazy; I’m from Oslo, Norway, and I’ve been in the United States for three years now,” said Hovland. “I don’t do anything in particular to stand out, I just play my golf and try to be myself, but I’m glad people like it.”
Hovland made waves this year on the PGA TOUR with four top-25s in five starts as a professional, including a solo-fourth finish at the Wyndham Championship. He also competed in the Masters Tournament (T32) and the U.S. Open (T12) as an amateur before turning professional. He was part of a vaunted trio of newcomers on TOUR that included Oklahoma State teammate Matthew Wolff and University of California-Berkeley star Collin Morikawa. Wolff and Morikawa have already won on TOUR this season to secure their status for next season, while Hovland is looking to earn his way to the PGA TOUR through the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
“It’s been a crazy journey, even so far, and I’ve only been a professional golfer for a couple of months,” said Hovland, who likely needs a top-25 finish to pass the projected points threshold to earn his PGA TOUR card. “Seeing what Collin [Morikawa] and Matt [Wolff] have done, I’m hoping to try and catch them. Looking back, I don’t think anyone could have really expected this to happen. But it’s a lot of fun.”
Another former college teammate of Hovland’s, Korn Ferry Tour rookie Kristoffer Ventura, has already secured his PGA TOUR card for the 2019-20 season through two wins during the Regular Season. The duo went hiking in the Boise foothills on Wednesday.
Veteran Rob Oppenheim carded the low round of the tournament with a 10-under 61 to rise to T2 entering the final round. Oppenheim went eagle-eagle on Nos. 2 and 3 and tacked on six more birdies to tie his best career round. Bronson Burgoon posted a 5-under 66 to equal Oppenheim’s three-day total at 14-under 199.
Sunday’s final-round tee times will run from 7:30-11:55 a.m.
Ryan Brehm equaled the round of the week on Friday with an 8-under 63 to ascend to the top of the leaderboard through 36 holes at the 30th Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco. At 12-under 130, Brehm leads Charlie Saxon by one stroke entering the weekend at Hillcrest Country Club.
Brehm, a 33-year-old from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, started on the 10th hole and carded eight birdies during a bogey-free round, including six straight from Nos. 15-2.
“I don’t remember the last time I had a streak like that,” said Brehm. “I actually looked at the scoreboard on the par-5 third and realized I had made six in a row, and I was in perfect position off the tee. I thought to myself let’s go get a seventh, and then of course I made a par. At least I made a birdie on the next hole.”
The Michigan State University alum posted 15 birdies through his first two rounds, countered by one bogey and one double bogey on Thursday. Brehm finished 13th in The 25 during the Regular Season, earning a return to the PGA TOUR. He previously competed on TOUR during the 2016-17 season, making 17 of 25 cuts, but only tallying one top-25. This year, Brehm has accumulated five top-10s, highlighted by his second career win at the LECOM Health Challenge.
While some players have taken a different approach at the shorter layout of Hillcrest Country Club, Brehm has continued doing what he does best: hitting driver off the tee. He ranks 10th on Tour in driving distance and fourth this week with an average of 354 yards per drive.
“I’m hitting driver as much as I can out here; it’s as simple as that,” said Brehm. “I think I hit it nine times today. There are a few times where I don’t because if it’s not perfect then you can get yourself in trouble, but I’m going to live and die by the sword. I’m going to keep sending it over the next two days and see what happens.”
Brehm hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation on Friday, T7 in the field. His shot of the day came at the par-3 17th, where he put it to one foot. Despite the fireworks at the penultimate hole, his shot on the hole was overshadowed by one he witnessed.
“I threw a couple of darts; I threw one into No. 17 to about a foot away and had a kick-in birdie,” said Brehm. “I was walking by earlier in the round – I think I was on No. 13 – and I saw Brett Stegmaier hit a hole-in-one there. And then I hit it close, so that hole was just fun today.”
Saxon, the 18-hole co-leader, backed up a first-round 64 with a second-round 67 to reach 11-under through two rounds. The 26-year-old carded five birdies and one bogey on Friday to remain near the top of the leaderboard.
“That was the goal coming into today, to get somewhere comfortably into double digits and go out there and stick to the process I’ve been doing and play a solid round,” said Saxon. “It wasn’t quite as clean as yesterday but for the most part I’m pretty pleased with how my round went.”
Saxon, who is the career money leader on PGA TOUR Series-China, is competing in a full slate of Korn Ferry Tour events this season for the first time. He competed in 15 events in 2017 but earned only one top-25. This year, the University of Oklahoma alum has seven top-25s in 22 starts.
Saturday’s third-round tee times will run from 7:50 a.m. to 1:40 p.m.
Grayson Murray, Charlie Saxon share first-round lead at Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco
Grayson Murray and Charlie Saxon carded rounds of 7-under 64 at Hillcrest Country Club and share the first-round lead at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco. In the second of three tournaments in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals, Murray is looking to strengthen his status on the PGA TOUR for the 2019-20 season, while Saxon has a chance to earn his TOUR card for the first time.
Murray was exempt on the PGA TOUR this season by virtue of his win at the 2017 Barbasol Championship, but his year was cut short by a lower-back injury that originated in 2018. After he “tweaked it pretty bad” at the Valero Texas Open in April, Murray withdrew and didn’t touch a club for two months in order for the inflammation to reduce.
His first start after the injury was a T2 finish at the REX Hospital Open in June, and he’s coming off a T23 finish at the first Finals event, the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship. He took a medical exemption and will have 12 starts on TOUR next season, but a finish in The Finals 25 will guarantee him a full schedule for 2019-20.
“My goal was to be feeling good going into these Playoffs,” said Murray, who is playing back-to-back weeks for the first time since March. “Like any of us out here, if we’re playing decent or swinging decent we want to keep it going. I’m glad that my body is feeling good enough to do it.”
After averaging 30.5 putts per round last week in Columbus, Murray needed just 25 putts in his 7-under 64 on Thursday. It was his third straight 64 at Hillcrest Country Club, as he carded weekend rounds of 64-64 to finish third at the 2016 Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco.
“With the breeze it got pretty tricky and there are definitely some pins that we were having to steer 20, 30 feet away from just with the wind,” Murray said. “Usually, around this place, you want to fire at everything, so it’s holding its own. I felt like 7-under was a really good score out there.”
For Saxon, his first-round 64 was a step towards a promotion to the PGA TOUR. Entering this week, Saxon had missed the cut in three of his last four starts, including a 73-79 performance last week at the Nationwide Children's Hospital Championship. He hit just 7 of 14 fairways and 10 of 18 greens on Thursday, but he needed only 20 putts – including one-putts on his last 10 holes.
“It wasn’t the cleanest round, I don’t even think I hit that many greens, but when I was in trouble, I was able to give myself a good look at par,” said Saxon, who matched his season-best score on Thursday. “My putts per greens in regulation must have been really low because when I did hit the green, I was pouring in the birdie putts.”
Saxon posted seven top-25s and finished the regular season 40th on the points list. He has secured status on the Korn Ferry Tour for next year, and that level of job security has eased the pressure of the Finals.
“I’d love to play on the PGA TOUR next year, it’s been a lifelong dream that I have a chance to achieve, but at the same time, I know that another year out here wouldn’t be the worst thing with some more time to get better,” Saxon said. “So I’m just treating it as an opportunity, and if I play well the next three days then I will get my TOUR card, and if not, then the world isn’t going to end.”
Four players are tied for third after rounds of 6-under 65. Hank Lebioda (148th), Tom Hoge (159th) and Tyler Duncan (163rd) finished No. 126-200 in the FedExCup this year and are looking to return to the PGA TOUR, while Mark Anderson finished No. 14 in The 25 and secured his TOUR card for the third time and first since 2016-17.
The Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco is the second of three events in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. The 2019 season concludes next week at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship presented by United Leasing & Finance, where The Finals 25 will earn their PGA TOUR cards for the 2019-20 season.
Friday’s second-round tee times will run in two waves off of the first and 10th tees from 7:30 a.m. to 2:20 p.m.
The 30th Annual Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft & Nabisco kicked off the tournament week on Tuesday evening with the Official Pro-Am Dinner at the Boise Centre. In front of an audience of more than 700 sponsors and media partners, executives from Albertsons Companies and Lagardere Sports announced that this year’s tournament raised a record breaking $1.5 MILLION for charity. This takes the 30 year total charitable contribution to over $25 MILLION.
“Thanks to the continued and amazing support of Albertsons Companies, our supporting sponsors and our fans, we are thrilled to announce this huge contribution to deserving charities,” said Jeff Sanders, President of Lagardere Sports Golf Events, management company of the Albertsons Boise Open. “Its been a long and enjoyable ride since our first year in 1990 and we are so pleased that the event continues to support deserving charities in the Boise community.”
Through the Tyson Foods TICKETS Fore CHARITY program, 100% of tournament ticket sales are given directly to Boise area charities.
The Albertsons Boise Open is the second of the three-event Korn Ferry Tour Finals where the top 75 professionals from the Korn Ferry Tour and 75 PGA TOUR professionals will compete for 25 PGA TOUR cards for next season.
This week the spotlight will be on Boise as 150 of the world’s best golfers compete at Hillcrest Country Club. The list of PGA TOUR players who have routed through Boise on their way to the PGA TOUR is legendary including names like Justin Thomas, Matt Kuchar, Rickie Fowler, Ernie Els, Jim Furyk, Bubba Watson, Xander Schauffele, Gary Woodland and many others. This year alone, 29 of the 50 PGA TOUR events were won by players who also played at the Albertsons Boise Open in the past.
Golf Channel will broadcast this week’s tournament internationally to more than 800 Million viewers worldwide.
The tournament offers many special events and amenities for fans to enjoy at no additional charge including The Idaho Statesman Junior Golf Clinic presented by Tyson Foods, held on Wednesday at 5:00 PM and the Litehouse Foods Family Day on Sunday from 11:00 AM – 3:00 PM. Fans can also enjoy on-course hospitality at no additional charge in the MillerCoors Fan Deck on the 18th hole, the Michelob Ultra Beers Fore Birdies tent on the 16th hole and the Fan Zone adjacent to the 18th fairway.
Daily tickets to the tournament are $15, weekly tickets are just $25 and kids 17 and under get in free all week with a ticketed adult. To purchase tickets supporting Boise area charities and for more information, visit AlbertsonsBoiseOpen.com.