A new PGA Tour season -- the last with the fall swing as we know it -- began on Thursday in Napa, California, with a lengthy weather delay and a pretty fascinating first-round leaderboard. The entire field was unable to finish Round 1 on account of some early fog on the West Coast and a handful of golfers will finish up their first 18 holes on Friday morning.
Let's take a look at a feel-good story at the top of the board after a partially completed Round 1 and a couple of big names who got their new seasons off to a great start.
1. Justin Lower (-9): Everybody probably remembers his teary press conference after narrowly missing making the top 125 last year at the Wyndham Championship. Lower later retained his PGA Tour card by being bumped up because some of the players ahead of him in the top 125 moved over to LIV Golf, and he took advantage of it on Thursday at the Fortinet Championship.
Lower's T8 finish last year at the Barbasol Championship is the best of his career by OWGR points earned, but he's in a great position to better that and put himself in a great spot to get well ahead of the curve of making the top 125 when this season concludes. Lower said after his 63 on Thursday that a year of experience on the Tour makes all the difference in the world.
"I left this course last year kind of in shock, honestly," Lower said. "I was like, 'God, if this is how the Tour is, I need to get a lot better very quickly.' Yeah, I feel a lot more confident than I did at this point last year just being the last card last year and then being where I am this year, I feel a lot more confident with my game and a lot more comfortable, for sure."
2. Max Homa (-7)
T3. Ben An, J.J. Spaun, S.H. Kim (-6)
T6. Greyson Sigg, Nick Taylor, Rickie Fowler, Sahith Theegala, Emiliano Grillo, Scott Harrington, Matti Schmid, Sung Kang, Brice Garnett, Robby Shelton (-5)
This dawned on me last year at this very tournament, which Homa won, but he has turned himself into one of the most consistent threats to win on the entire PGA Tour. He shot his third consecutive 65 at this event (dating back to last year when he shot 65-65 on the weekend to win) and picked up right where he left off on his best year ever on the PGA Tour last season. With the Presidents Cup coming next week, Homa's form is a great sign for the U.S. team and perhaps an even better sign for him as he tries to win this tournament for the second straight year (Brendan Steele did the same in 2016 and 2017).
Defending champion of the Fortinet Championship, Max Homa, posted his third-consecutive 7-under 65 at Silverado, dating to R3 of 2021.— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) September 16, 2022
Rickie Fowler has had a rough few years, but he had an awesome Thursday with a 5-under 67, which is his second-best round since the Wells Fargo Championship in May. Contention from him this weekend would be incredibly popular and the absolute perfect start for the PGA Tour to a new season.
"Like we've talked, just trying to get back to being more consistent," Fowler said. "I've had some good weeks in the past few years, but it shouldn't just be a few weeks in those years, there needs to be more. That's kind of the biggest thing is just getting back to playing some consistent golf, consistently being in contention and having chances to win tournaments."
2022 Fortinet Championship updated odds and picks
- Max Homa: +350
- Justin Lower: 9-1
- Sahith Theegala: 12-1
- J.J. Spaun: 14-1
- Emiliano Grillo: 14-1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 20-1
I think Homa has the best chance to win, but I don't like his number here. I'd rather have Theegala at 12-1 or even somebody like Adam Svensson -- who was fifth in strokes gained tee to green on Thursday -- at 55-1.