BOISE, Idaho – Andrew Johnston took a giant step to accomplishing his goal of earning a PGA TOUR card Friday morning at Hillcrest Country Club. The 27-year-old from London, England known to fans as “Beef” posted an 8-under 63 to take the 36-hole lead at the Albertsons Boise Open presented by Kraft Nabisco, the second of four Tour Finals events. Johnston’s 13-under-par 129 total places him two strokes ahead of Scott Stallings (65) and Miguel Angel Carballo (64) heading into the weekend.
First-Round Leaderboard
Andrew Johnston
66-63—129 (-13)
Scott Stallings
66-65—131 (-11)
Miguel Angel Carballo
67-64—131 (-11)
Sam Ryder
64-68—132 (-10)
Keith Mitchell
64-68—132 (-10)
Mackenzie Hughes
68-64—132 (-10)
Sam Ryder, Keith Mitchell and Mackenzie Hughes sit 10-under-par 132 after the second round. There are 13 players within five strokes of the lead.
“I was just a bit more dialed in and I think just played slightly better,” said Johnston, who hit 15 of 18 greens in the second round. “It was three shots different from yesterday and sometimes it can be such a small difference.”
Johnston won earlier this year on the European Tour at the Real Club Valderrama Open de España. Sitting at No. 17 in the Race to Dubai rankings, Johnston decided to travel across the Atlantic and see if he could earn his TOUR card, once he found out he was eligible for the Finals. Johnston is looking forward to playing both major tours if he can successfully navigate the four-event series.
“If I can come out with a card, then I’ll be able to play the best tournaments on both sides,” said Johnston, who is exempt in Europe until 2018. “I’m not going to give up playing in Europe either. I’m going to play both sides. If I can do that, it’s going to make for a great year next year.”
Johnston acknowledged that he’s missing some of his favorite events at the moment to chase his dream. He skipped the Italian Open this week and the Porsche European Open to play in Boise and Columbus next week. With the golf season seemingly never ending, Johnston’s long-term plan is to play in the biggest events on both the PGA TOUR and the European Tour for many years.
“You always want to come over and play because there are so many good events,” said Johnston, about the possibility of becoming a member of the PGA TOUR. “It’s where you want to play. You see the top guys in the world, they’ll play the four majors, the four World Golf Championships, like that, and then pick the best ones around there like THE PLAYERS, Wentworth back home, Scottish Open, Irish Open, and others here. … if you build a schedule playing that year in and year out is great and that’s what you want to be doing.”
Johnston turned pro in 2009 and struggled his first couple of years. Last year he changed caddies and started working with a new swing coach. Those are significant changes to make halfway through a season, but the gamble has paid off. This season, Johnston won his first professional event and finished solo eighth in the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, in just his third major start.
“You’ve just got to keep on trusting what you’re doing and keep on believing that you can compete with the best guys in the world,” said Johnston. “I haven’t really thought about it that much. every tournament you want to go and do well no matter where it is, what tour it is. That’s been the approach I’ve had, I think.”
Stallings backed up his first-round 66 with a 65 on Friday. The three-time TOUR winner posted just one top 10 this season on TOUR. With his exemption up from his victory at the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open, Stallings was forced to compete in the Finals and has really seen his form improve these past few weeks.
“Last week was a huge step in right direction for me,” said Stallings, who finished tied for sixth at the DAP Championship. “To be able to put a few weeks in a row together is nice. It’s motivating and encouraging, because I feel like it’s been there a while and it doesn’t always happen on our time.”
Friday Notes:
* Friday weather: Mostly sunny with a daytime high of 78 degrees and winds W-NW at 6-12 mph.
* This is the second tournament in the Tour Finals, a series of four events that will conclude at the Tour Championship in Atlantic Beach, Fla., Oct. 6-9. Twenty-five PGA TOUR cards were awarded three weeks ago following the WinCo Foods Portland Open. An additional 25 cards are up for grabs during the four Finals events, as well as positioning for all 50 cards.
* This is the fourth year of the Finals format and it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much money it will take to finish in the top-25 on the Finals money list and collect one of the remaining 25 PGA TOUR cards that will be handed out in a few weeks. Here’s how much money the No. 25 man on the money list earned in each of the past three years:
 2013   No. 25             Bobby Gates                $33,650.00
 2014   No. 25             Eric Axley                   $36,311.66
 2015   No. 25             Rob Oppenheim           $32,206.00
* This week’s purse is $1M with $180,000 going to the champion.
* Sixty-eight players made the cut at 3-under 139.
* Despite an 8-under 63, Johnston was just 1 of 3 in scrambling Friday and failed to get up and down out of the bunker twice.
* With a win this week, Johnston could become the second consecutive winner to win as a non-member.
* Last week, Johnston carded 68-69-73-70 at the DAP Championship and finished 28th.
* Johnston’s 8-under 63 was his lowest round in a PGA TOUR-sanctioned event.
* Tyler Aldridge, who attended Boise State University, opened with rounds of 67-71—138 to make the cut by one shot.
*  First-round leaders Sam Ryder, Adam Schenk, and Keith Mitchell all followed up opening-round 64s with another under-par round Friday and are within the top-10 heading into the weekend. Ryder and Mitchell both shot 3-under 68s and are tied for fourth after 36 holes. Schenk shot a 2-under 69 and is in T7 at 9-under.
* Mackenzie Hughes 7-under 64 was his best round on the Tour since a third-round 64 at the Price Cutter Charity Championship, where he won by one shot over Richy Werenski. Hughes, the 2013 Order of Merit winner on the Mackenzie Tour – PGA TOUR Canada, is already heading to the PGA TOUR after finished 17th in the 2016 Tour Regular Season money list.
* Rory Sabbatini, who finished T6 a week ago at the DAP Championship, failed to make the cut despite entering the day one shot back of the lead. The six-time PGA TOUR winner shot a 4-over 75 in the second round to miss the cut by one shot.
* Bryson DeChambeau, winner of the DAP Championship a week ago, missed the cut by one shot after a second-round even-par 71. DeChambeau held the lead on the Finals money list entering this week after emerging from a four-way playoff in Cleveland, Ohio.
* Here’s how the highest-ranked players in the field fared this week:
            #54      K.T. Kim                                 69-69 (-4)        T45
            #64      Kiradech Aphibarnrat              70-71 (-1)        MC
            #80      Andrew Johnston                     66-63 (-13)      1
            #91      Matt Jones                                66-71 (-5)        T34
            #109    Bryson DeChambeau               69-71 (-2)        MC

* This week marks the tournaments return to September. The last three years the Albertsons Boise Open was played in the summer, before that it was played in the fall every year since its inception.

Scoring Averages for Hillcrest CC:

            Front (36)       Back (35)        Total (71)

R1:      35.459             33.969             69.428
R2:      35.381             34.317             69.698

Bogey Free Rounds:

R1: Rory Sabbatini (65), Trey Mullinax (66), Julian Etulain (66), Tyler Aldridge (67), Denny McCarthy (68), Cheng Tsung Pan (68), Ted Potter Jr. (68), Miguel Angel Carballo (68), Alex Prugh (69)

R2: Mackenzie Hughes (64), Mark Wilson (65), Zack Sucher (66), Bobby Wyatt (67), Martin Piller (67), Roger Sloan (68), Kevin Tway (68), Bhavik Patel (68), Cameron Percy (68)