Printed on: July 26, 2013

Former champ recalls his winning formula

By CHRIS LANGRILL
Idaho Statesman

Hunter Haas had some fond memories come back to him while he played the first round of the Boise Open on Thursday at Hillcrest Country Club.

Haas won the tournament in 2010 with a stellar, 7-under 64 on the final day that year.

Friday, he shot a 62 to earn a share of the lead with New Zealand's Steven Alker.

"I played a round similar to this on Sunday (in 2010)," Haas said. "And at one point today it kind of felt like that, and I kind of remembered back."

If he keeps playing like he did Thursday, the Boise Open is going to shoot up the list of his favorite tournaments. The 24th annual event runs through Sunday, when the winner will be awarded $139,500 out of the $775,000 purse.

"It was just one of those days. I did everything right," said Haas, who posted the best round of his career on the Web.com Tour (217 starts). "I like the course. I think it's playing fair ... but it's easier than I've ever seen it play, let's put it that way."

And the golfers took advantage. Haas and Alker matched the lowest opening-round score in the 24-year history of the tournament (three golfers have shot 61 in later rounds). Overall, the field of golfers compiled the lowest first-round scoring average (69.026).

Previous Boise Opens were played in September, and the move to July figures to favor the golfers as the week wears on.

"We'll see what they do, but if it's hot it's hard to keep a golf course anything but soft," said J.J. Killeen, who has played in Boise five previous times and shot an opening-round 65 Thursday. "They've got to keep water on the grass, and it will be a little bit softer maybe. I think there are going to be some low scores this week."

Haas and Alker have certainly set the stage for just that.

Alker finished in the hot afternoon sun, but he did anything but wilt on his back nine. Alker, who started on the back nine, birdied No. 1, eagled No. 2 and then finished his round with three straight birdies to card a 30 and match the best round in tournament history on the front nine.

"I had a nice start, a nice middle and a nice end," Alker said. "I had a good feel today, and got it going."

That feeling carried over from a few weeks ago at the Utah Championship, where he shot a career-low round of 61 on his way to winning the Web.com event.

"It's just kind of the confidence rolling," Alker said. "It's a funny game. I've really been patient the last month or two, and I felt my swing was coming around. I started rolling the ball nice a few weeks ago and started making some putts. I think my ducks are in a row right now. ... I've just got to get in the hunt again for Sunday and just give myself a chance."

The final day of the tournament is Alker's 42nd birthday, so being in contention would be a nice present to himself.

"That would be nice," he said. "It certainly would."