Bidding to become 2nd Argentinian winner of Ascendant, Alejandro Tosti birdies final 4 holes to take lead at TPC Colorado; less than a year after finishing 2nd in 2022 Colorado Open, Rico Hoey is PGA Tour-bound in 2024
By Gary Baines – 7/15/2023
The Ascendant presented by Blue is only being contested for the fifth time, but Argentinian golfers seem to feel right at home at TPC Colorado.
Nelson Ledesma won the inaugural Korn Ferry Tour event in Berthoud in 2019. And on Saturday, Alejandro Tosti shot an 8-under-par 64 to grab the outright lead with one round remaining at TPC Colorado.
“That would be pretty fun” having two Argentinian winners of the event, said Tosti, a Korn Ferry Tour rookie. “We don’t have many wins on this tour, but definitely we have good talent in Argentina, really good players. We’ve shown in majors (Angel Cabrera winning two and Roberto DeVicenzo one) and through history that we have really good talent.”
Tosti birdied his final four holes — including a very difficult 17th and 18th after a lightning delay that lasted more than 3 hours and 15 minutes. He sank a putt of 20 feet on No. 17, then drained a 25 footer on No. 18, which was playing as the most difficult hole on the course on Saturday. Indeed, he’s the first player all week to birdie both 17 and 18 on the same day.
That gave the 27-year-old a one-stroke advantage over Swede Tim Widing, who matched Tosti’s 64, and Nicholas Lindheim, the leader after the first two days who bogeyed No. 18 to fall out of the lead on Saturday.
Tosti finished the day with an eagle at No. 5 — his fifth eagle of the tournament, matching a Korn Ferry Tour record — and added eight birdies and two bogeys to shoot his 64, which is one stroke off the tournament record. That put him at 15 under par, which establishes a 54-hole record for this event. Three under or better on Sunday will push him past the Ascendant’s previous best 72-hole mark (17 under, set last year).
“I finished (and) I looked at the leaderboard and I’m like 8 under today?” said Tosti, who followed up a first-round 72 with scores of 65-64. “I didn’t realize until I saw the number. Of course it was an amazing day. I’m hitting the ball great, placing the ball where I want. Today I made some putts and I’m very happy being in this position for tomorrow.”
Tosti said he worried about the decision at the time, but he took 10 days off from the competitive grind and went back to Argentina prior to The Ascendant. But it’s been just great so far, with him at the top of the leaderboard.
“I feel like that break worked out pretty good,” he said. “I was very anxious to see how I was going to react. I think out of the 10 days that I was in Argentina, I hit probably 100 balls and played 18 holes only once. So I came out here with no expectations and I found my game is actually very similar to where I left off.”
Tim Widing celebrates a birdie on the 15th hole Saturday.
Which is to say, in a very good place. So far this year, Tosti owns a 10th place at the PGA Tour’s Mexico Open in late April, in addition to six Korn Ferry Tour top-10s just since the beginning of April. He stands ninth in the season-long KFT standings, with the top 30 at season end earning 2024 PGA Tour cards.
“I’ve been playing great,” he said. “I’ve been putting myself in positions. A couple weeks ago I was one shot off the playoff (and) a couple other tournaments fourth place as well, a couple shots off. It’s just one swing away.”
Should Tosti or Widing prevail on Sunday, they’ll be the third foreign-born winner in the five years of The Ascendant, joining Ledesma (2019) and China’s Zecheng “Marty” Dou (2022).
Widing, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Friday, almost matched the single-round tournament record of 63 on Saturday. But after being 9 under par through 17 holes, the horn blew — stopping play for lightning in the area — while he was in the middle of the 18th fairway.
When play finally resumed more than three hours later, Widing’s 8-iron approach finished just short of the green, about 70 feet from the cup. And he three-putted from there, giving him his only bogey on Saturday and leaving him one shy of a share of the single-round tournament record, of which he was unaware.
That “kind of stinks a little bit,” he said of the bogey. “It’s a shot if we would have continued playing, I think I would have pulled it off because I was kind of in a good zone going in. But it is what it is. I felt like I was not as prepared and a little bit stiff (after the delay). Probably the worst swing I had all tournament. It’s just a standard 8-iron for me right at the pin. (Still), I could have two-putted that easily. But with the rain and stuff, greens were a little slower so it didn’t quite get it there” to the hole.
But overall, shooting a 64 and being one stroke out of the lead, Widing was mainly a happy camper on Saturday.
“I had my birthday yesterday and kind of celebrated with my fiancee,” he said. “It just kind of put me in a good mood heading into today. We talked about trying to have my first day as a 26-year-old start off good.”
Widing is in the midst of making a strong big for a 2024 PGA Tour card. With the top 30 on the Korn Ferry Tour points list at season end being promoted, Widing came into the week 33rd and could help his cause dramatically with a victory on Sunday. He owns three top-10s this season on the KFT, including a fourth at the Compliance Solutions Championship in late June.
Nicholas Lindheim wasn’t as flawless Saturday as he had been the previous two days.
As for Lindheim, he posted a 69 on Saturday. After 33 consecutive holes without a bogey, he carded three of them in his final dozen holes on Saturday. The 38-year-old is on his fifth and final back-related rehab start before returning to the PGA Tour next week.
All told, eight players will go into Sunday at least 10 under par — and within striking distance under the right circumstances.
Rico Hoey’s golf career has taken a big turn for the better over the last year.
2022 Colorado Open Runner-Up Now Has 2024 PGA Tour Card Locked Up; A year ago this month, Rico Hoey was like a lot of talented golfers competing in the Inspirato Colorado Open. He was playing in mini-tour events (in his case most notably the Golden State Tour, now known as the Asher Tour) and in state opens as he didn’t have status on any major tour.
But Hoey, a resident of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., who played his college golf at USC, had been a regular on the Korn Ferry Tour from 2018-21. In fact, he competed in the first three KFT events at TPC Colorado in Berthoud, placing 19th in the inaugural event in 2019.
Last year, no longer with a tour card, he teed it up in the Colorado Open — and led, or shared the lead, after each of the first three days. Wil Collins overtook him in the last round, earning the $100,000 first prize, as Hoey finished second, one stroke behind.
After placing 17th in the final stage of Q-school in the fall, Hoey regained his Korn Ferry Tour card. And, on the strength of a May win at the Visit Knoxville Open — and six top-10s overall in 2023 — he’s one of two players who have been declared by the KFT to be a lock to earn a 2024 PGA Tour card. Thirty of those cards will be awarded at season’s end, and Hoey stands second in the points list.
“It’s a dream come true,” Hoey said in May, regarding securing a spot on the world’s top tour. “I mean, this is what we all work for. And I’m really enjoying it. I’m really happy to be out here and to have a chance to get on the PGA Tour, I’m just really excited. So let’s see what the future has in store, and I’m just going to keep doing my best.”
This week, Hoey is making his fourth appearance at the KFT stop at TPC Colorado, now known as The Ascendant presented by Blue. On Saturday, he had a good round going as he was 4 under par through 17 holes, but his approach shot on the 18th went just over the green, into the rough. He advanced his chip only about a foot, then three-putted from the fringe for a double bogey.
That gave him a 2-under 70 on Saturday and a 3-under total.
It should be noted that the runner-up in the 2022 Colorado Open isn’t the only impressive finish in a Colorado tournament for the PGA Tour-bound Hoey. He also placed second in the 2017 Pac-12 tournament at Boulder Country Club — the one won by Denver native Wyndham Clark, who last month captured the U.S. Open title.
Never Mind: A lightning delay starting at 3:55 p.m. on Saturday delayed the finishes for the final five groups. The 10 players affected were transported back out on the course for a 5:30 scheduled restart, but when they were in position, they were held in place and ultimately the restart didn’t take place. At about 5:45, the players were brought back to the clubhouse because of potentially dangerous conditions.
An actual resumption of play took place at 7:15 p.m., meaning the delay lasted 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Local Scores: Here are the scores for the players with strong Colorado ties who competed in The Ascendant this week:
MISSED 36-HOLE CUT
Former Cheyenne resident and onetime CU golfer Josh Creel 71-73–144
Fort Collins resident Sam Saunders 71-74–145
Former CU golfer Jeremy Paul 71-74–145
Former Air Force Academy golfer Tom Whitney 71-74–145
Valor Christian and CSU grad Jake Staiano 74-76—150
Denver native and former CU golfer Jonathan Kaye 77-78–155
For all the scores from The Ascendant presented by Blue, CLICK HERE.
Final-Round Pairings: For Sunday’s tee times, CLICK HERE.