The First Look: Fortinet Championship
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Written by Adam Stanley @adam_stanley
After a two-week break, the new PGA TOUR season begins with the Fortinet Championship in Napa, California. Cal product Max Homa will return to defend his title from last season, when he would win twice and qualify for the TOUR Championship for the first time in his career. Last week he was named as a captain’s pick for the U.S. Presidents Cup Team.
FIELD NOTES: Homa, who finished fifth in the FedExCup, edged Stanford product Maverick McNealy, also in this week’s field, at Silverado last year… There will be plenty of Presidents Cup flare in Napa before the squads assemble at Quail Hollow. The International side will have Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Taylor Pendrith, and Cam Davis, while Homa and U.S. Captain's Assistant Webb Simpson are also playing… Korn Ferry Tour graduates making their debuts as full-fledged PGA TOUR members include Justin Suh, who topped the combined Points List and will be fully exempt this season; Erik Barnes, who at 34 will be a TOUR rookie this season; and Kyle Westmoreland, who was No. 25 on the Korn Ferry Tour Finals Points List and will become the first graduate of the Air Force Academy to play on TOUR… Zac Blair and Kyle Stanley are playing their first events of a major medical extension… Sponsor exemptions include Harry Higgs, Dylan Wu, Chris Gotterup and Jacob Bridgeman… Jason Dufner, Ryan Moore, and Jimmy Walker are using Career Money Exemptions this season and will be in the field in Napa… Other notables include 2020 winner Stewart Cink, plus Californians Cameron Champ (the winner here in 2019) Rickie Fowler, and Rookie of the Year nominee Sahith Theegala.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 FedExCup points.
COURSE: Silverado Resort and Spa (North), par 72, 7,123 yards. Located in the heart of California wine country, the course, opened in 1955, was refreshed by TOUR legend turned broadcaster Johnny Miller about a decade ago. This is the seventh playing of the Fortinet Championship at Silverado. The layout moves through mature trees and has undulating fairways and challenging greens. Last season’s scoring average was 71.038 as Max Homa relied on impressive ball-striking (second in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green, sixth in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee) to capture his third TOUR title.
STORYLINES: This marks the final tune-up before the return of the Presidents Cup… It’s a big week for rookies on the PGA TOUR and Korn Ferry Tour grads keen to keep TOUR status for next season… Earning valuable FedExCup points in the fall has become even more important as only 70 golfers will earn their way into the first event of the FedExCup Playoffs… This marks the end of the wraparound-season era after a decade-long run. The PGA TOUR will return to a calendar-year schedule in 2024… Notable Korn Ferry Tour grads this season include Carl Yuan (who topped the Regular Season Points List), Robby Shelton (two-time winner in 2022), Paul Haley II (re-earned TOUR status for the first time in 10 years), and long-hitting Brandon Matthews.
72-HOLE RECORD: 262, Cameron Beckman (2008 at Grayhawk GC), Kevin Sutherland (2008 at Grayhawk GC), Troy Matteson (2009 at Grayhawk GC), Rickie Fowler (2009 at Grayhawk GC), Jamie Lovemark (2009 at Grayhawk GC). Silverado record: 267, Stewart Cink (2020)
18-HOLE RECORD: 61, Mark Hensby (2nd round, 2007 at Grayhawk GC), Kevin Stadler (2nd round, 2008 at Grayhawk GC), Troy Matteson (2rd & 3rd rounds, 2009 at Grayhawk GC), Mike Weir (4th round, 2009 at Grayhawk GC), Chesson Hadley (2nd round, 2017 at Silverado).
LAST TIME: Max Homa fired a 7-under 65 – tied for the low round of the day – to win by one over Maverick McNealy. It was Homa’s third PGA TOUR win, and he would later bank his fourth victory at the Wells Fargo Championship. In the final round at Silverado he birdied three of the last four holes on the front nine, bogeyed the par-4 10th, and dunked his approach for an eagle on the par-4 12th. He followed that with birdies on No’s 13, 16, and 17 to nip McNealy, who was leading Homa by three with seven holes left. It was a wild finish for McNealy – who was hunting for his first TOUR title – as he birdied No.16, double-bogeyed 17, and eagled 18 to shoot a 4-under 68. Mito Pereira finished 16 under, his third-place result kickstarting a 2021-22 campaign that saw him contend at the PGA Championship and ultimately earn a spot on the International Presidents Cup team.
HOW TO FOLLOW
Television: Thursday-Sunday: 6 p.m.-9 p.m. ET (Golf Channel)
Radio: Thursday-Friday, 3 p.m.–9 p.m. ET. Saturday-Sunday, 4 p.m.-9 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio)
PGA TOUR LIVE
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