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.