The Utah Sports Commission — which hosts this week’s stop on the PGA’s Korn Ferry Tour, the Utah Championship, and many other athletic competitions throughout the year — likes to bill Utah as the State of Sport.
But on Friday, it became the State of Smoke.
Farmington’s Oakridge Country Club, site of this year’s Utah Championship and not far from Salt Lake City — which had the worst air quality of any major city in the world at one point Friday morning — became shrouded in smoke around 10:30 a.m. and stayed that way the remainder of the day.
Still, that didn’t stop former Central Florida golfer Bobby Bai from firing a 9-under-par 62 on Friday morning to take the tournament lead midway through the event. Bai, who is from Shantou, China, made an eagle and seven birdies to shoot the lowest round of his professional career.
He teed off from the No. 10 tee at 8:40 a.m. and got through most of his round before the thick stuff from Northern California and Oregon really rolled in.
Meanwhile, the three Utahns in the field — all former BYU golfers — had mixed results on Friday.
Playing in the afternoon, Korn Ferry Tour regular Patrick Fishburn, from Ogden, birdied the 18th hole (No. 9 for Oakridge members) with a clutch wedge shot to 2 feet and just made the cut.
Playing in the morning wave, Oakridge CC member Daniel Summerhays and Draper’s Rhett Rasmussen missed the cut, which came at 5-under 137, by three shots each.
As was detailed by the Deseret News on Thursday, when Fishburn fired a 3-under 68, he making the cut was huge because he currently stands No. 82 on the KFT points list. The top 75 qualify for the tour’s three-tournament finals.
He’s got a lot of ground to make up this weekend, and next week in Omaha, but at least it beats sitting at home Saturday and Sunday, he surmised.
Even if his house just 15 minutes away in South Ogden gets him out of the smoke.
The Golf Channel is not televising this year’s tournament, as it usually does, because it is broadcasting the women’s golf tournament in the Olympic Games in Japan this week.
If there were ever a time to not have the biggest professional golf tournament in Utah televised, it is now.
It was that murky — certainly not a Chamber of Commerce Day in Davis County, or anywhere else along the Wasatch Front.
Fishburn enters Saturday’s third round tied for 56th.
Rasmussen, who was one of the long-hitting Fishburn’s teammates at BYU early in Rasmussen’s career there and late in Fishburn’s, was playing in his first Korn Ferry Tour event, but vowed that it won’t be his last.
“It was a great experience,” Rasmussen said, lamenting bogeys on holes No. 14 and 16 that derailed his hopes of making the cut. The former Corner Canyon High star made three birdies on the front nine to get to 3-under for the day and the tournament, but struggled on the back.
“I don’t get to play professional golf at home a lot, so I always enjoy coming out in front of my friends and family and playing familiar courses,” he said. “I needed to finish strong coming down the stretch. I made a couple bogeys. But I don’t think I played poorly or anything. I just didn’t make the two or three putts that I needed coming down the stretch.”
Having turned pro in June 2020, Rasmussen has been playing on the PGA’s Forme Tour, without much success. He said he probably won’t go back to that tour, but will instead try his luck on the Mackenzie Tour Canada, where he has some status that allows him to get into some tournaments.
“I haven’t been playing poorly, but professional golf is tough,” he said. “You have to shoot 5-under every week to make a cut. I have been under par every time, but just can’t get to that threshold. I will keep grinding, and I will get there.”
Rasmussen shot a 64 on Monday at TalonsCove GC in Saratoga Springs to become one of eight Monday qualifiers for this event. One of his former BYU teammates, Kai Ruiz, caddied for him this week.
“I tried to carry that with me into this tournament, but it didn’t show up,” he said. “It is OK, though. It is just golf.”
Rasmussen said he will go to Q School this fall with hopes of becoming a full-time KFT player, having tasted what it takes to make it on what is considered by some to be the second-best tour in the world.
“My putting has to improve,” he said. “You got to be a phenomenal putter to succeed out here. You can’t be average. It doesn’t do anything. Somehow I have to figure it out and become a great putter.”