Coming into the day as the 18-hole outright leader, Philip Knowles extended his lead on the field to four strokes as he sits atop the leaderboard heading into the weekend at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Chevron. After a career-low 61 in the first round, Knowles followed up with a 7-under 64 Friday to claim the first 36-hole lead of his Korn Ferry Tour career.
“Yesterday felt very easy. Today, it was a little bit up and down, honestly,” said the 24-year-old Knowles. “I wouldn't say that it was super easy today, but there were stretches where I executed really good golf shots and made the putts and kind of built momentum there.”
While he felt his play was “up and down” in the second round, Knowles’ scorecard said otherwise as the Bradenton, Florida native recorded eight birdies against just one bogey. His 17-under 125 through two rounds marks the lowest 36-hole score in a Korn Ferry Tour event since Alex Prugh’s 124 at the 2018 Ellie Mae Classic at TPC Stonebrae. Knowles’ 18 total birdies (16 birdies and two eagles) are the most in the field and three more than the next best – Japan’s Satoshi Kodaira has 15 birdies and sits T2.
Knowles’ second round started on the front nine at Hillcrest Country Club, where he tallied six birdies at Nos. 2-4 and 7-9. Through two rounds, Knowles has played holes 1-9 at 13-under par total, shooting a 7-under 29 on the front in the first round followed by Friday’s 6-under 30.
On the back, Knowles rolled in another pair of birdies at the 11th and 18th, along with his lone bogey of the day on the par-3 13th.
“I kind of dinked it around that back nine and just tried to stay patient, stay patient,” Knowles said. “Making that 12, 13 footer on the last hole for birdie was the epitome of patience. I didn't have it for five holes (Nos. 13-17). I was able to kind of get that to go on the last. It was a good step into tomorrow's round.”
This week’s 18-hole lead marked the second-consecutive week where Knowles was the solo leader after the first round as he achieved the same feat at last week’s Pinnacle Bank Championship presented by Aetna. Last week marked the first time Knowles held a lead of any kind on the Korn Ferry Tour and Friday marked the first 36-hole lead for him.
Knowles is in his first full season on the Korn Ferry Tour and making his 17th start of the year this week in Boise. He played in two events, the 2020 and 2021 LECOM Suncoast Classic, during the 2020-21 season as a sponsor exemption but missed the cut in both starts. He began this season with conditional status after a T73 finish at Final Stage of last year’s Qualifying Tournament and once again was a sponsor exemption at the LECOM Suncoast Classic, this time finishing T22 which saw him rise on the priority list.
After a string of four missed cuts in April and May, Knowles season turned around at the AdventHealth Championship, where he placed T23. Since then, he has played in nine events and logged five top-30 finishes and three top 15s, while only missing the cut one time.
Knowles, who originally turned professional in 2018, has also tallied 19 starts on PGA TOUR Canada, where he earned his only win in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event at the 2021 Auburn University Club Invitational, which propelled him to a No. 7 finish on the Order of Merit, granting him an exemption to Final Stage last November.
Prior to entering the professional level, Knowles played four seasons at the University of North Florida where he was a 2019 All-America Third Team selection and 2018 All-America Honorable Mention. He was named the 2019 Atlantic Sun Conference Player of the Year and was a three-time All-Atlantic Sun First Team selection (2017, 2018, 2019).
“I was streaky in junior golf,” said Knowles when discussing his amateur career. “I got to my freshman year of college and I realized I was pretty bad at golf and I got better every year. (Head Coach) Scott (Schroeder) helped me really my first two years go from an average player to a pretty good player. (Assistant Coach) Jeff (Dennis) almost took the next step and helped me become, what I felt like, really competitive. I owe them a ton.”
After his opening round Thursday, Knowles said that reminding himself to be patient has been a main focus of his recently and it’s been rewarding to, “see that patience pay off.”
Despite having the outright lead for the second-consecutive day, he refuses to pay much attention to the leaderboard or get comfortable until the tournament comes to a close.
“I haven't seen my name at the top of the leaderboard yet, I haven't looked. But as a golfer, you have an idea.”
Third-round tee times will run from 8:10 a.m. through 2:00 p.m. local time off the first tee.