fb-pixel Skip to main content
Golf roundup

In defense of his title, Max Homa shares second-round lead at Fortinet Championship

Second-round co-leader Max Homa used wedges to attack the pins at the Fortinet Championship at Silverado Resort and Spa North course in Napa, California.Mike Mulholland/Getty

Max Homa moved into position to defend his title at the Fortinet Championship, shooting a 5-under-par 67 on Friday to share the early 36-hole lead with Danny Willett at the PGA Tour’s season opener.

Homa, a two-time winner last season and a captain’s pick for next week’s Presidents Cup, had an eagle, four birdies, and a bogey — his first of the week — for a two-day total of 12-under 132 at Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, Calif.

“The course fits my eyes,” Homa said. “I hit a lot of wedges today and I’ve been hitting the wedges really well, so when I get a lot of wedges from fairways like these, I feel like I can attack the pins.”


The four-time PGA Tour winner played collegiately at California.

“I’ve got a great support system here,” said Homa, who won the 2013 NCAA individual title. “I’ve got friends and family up here and a bunch of, you know, people who appreciate I went to school up here.”

Willett, winless in the United States since his triumph at the Masters in 2016, shot a bogey-free 64. The English player kept his PGA Tour card for this season because of players defecting to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

“Yeah, we kind of got handed a lifeline with the guys leaving, which was nice,” Willett said. “We kind of had to reassess things and decided we’d press on and play a little bit more this fall over here and really try to get some points up early.”

Willett has eight titles on the European tour, most recently last October at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in Scotland.

He had eight birdies in his second round and is bogey-free for the week.

“You know, the rough is hit and miss and with the greens being firm as they are. To go bogey-free is really good,” said Willett, who has only six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since winning his lone major. “The field game is pretty sharp, the short game’s pretty sharp.”


LIV Golf — Dustin Johnson already is approaching $10 million in the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series and he’s playing like that number is going to keep soaring.

Johnson ran off nine birdies Friday, none longer than about 12 feet, and posted a 9-under-par 63 at Rich Harvest Farms to build a three-shot lead after the first of three rounds in the LIV Golf Invitational-Chicago.

Johnson is coming off a playoff win two weeks ago outside Boston, and with his team having won the last two events, his earnings in four starts already is just over $9.9 million. That’s more than his best season on the PGA Tour over 22 starts.

British Open champion Cameron Smith rediscovered his putting form toward the end of the round and finished with a two-putt birdie on the par-5 second hole for a 66.

Matthew Wolff had a 67, while the group at 66 includes Charles Howell III, whose round was marred by a double bogey, and Henrik Stenson, who missed the Boston event while coping with vertigo.

Phil Mickelson had five birdies and might have been a little closer to Johnson except for his one mistake, and it was a big one. He took triple bogey on the par-3 fifth hole, his sixth of the day in the shotgun start. He shot 70.


Johnson closed out the front nine with four straight birdies, three of them from 8 feet or closer. He put on a clinic on Rich Harvest Farms, built in the southwest suburbs and best known for hosting the Solheim Cup in 2009.

Even with a week off — and playing for only the sixth time in four months — Johnson kept the groove in his swing.

His one miss was on the par-5 18th and that only kept him from reaching in two. He missed a 10-foot birdie putt.

“I didn’t hole a lot of putts outside 10 feet. I didn’t have many long putts,” Johnson said with a smile.

“I’ve got my swing in a nice groove,” he said. “As long as I hit a couple of balls every other day, I can keep it there. Fortunately, I’m keeping it going right now.”

Smith made only two birdies on his opening nine holes until changing his approach and seeing more birdies go in.

“I made an adjustment out there the last five or six holes. I just wasn’t quite hitting them into the back of the hole,” he said. “A little speed adjustment and a few started to go in.”

Johnson and Talor Gooch, who birdied his first three holes and was 1 over the rest of the way for a 70, are the only players to have finished in the top 10 in all four LIV Golf Invitational events.


Twenty-seven players from the 48-man field broke par David Puig, who gave up his senior year at Arizona State to turn pro this week, had a 73.

Patrick Reed also struggled, posting a 74 despite making three birdies and an eagle.

LPGA — Esther Henseleit feels as though she has been spinning her wheels the last six months on the LPGA Tour. That made Friday at the AmazingCre Portland Classic feel as though she were absolutely soaring.

Henseleit rolled in 10 birdie putts on her way to an 8-under 64, giving the 23-year-old German a share of the lead with Lilia Vu going into the weekend.

Columbia Edgewater is tight and tree-lined with firm greens that roll true. Henseleit kept the ball in play and let her putter do the rest of the work.

“I had some easy putts and hit the line and they went in, so that went well today,” Henseleit said. “I had many chances, but they were not gimmes. I didn’t have a tap-in birdie at all.”

Vu, a former No. 1 amateur player when she was at UCLA, had four birdies and an eagle on her opening seven holes and then played steadily on the back nine for a 66.

Vu and Henseleit were at 10-under 134.

They were one shot ahead of Carlota Ciganda of Spain, who had a 66. The large group at 8-under 136 included another former No. 1 amateur, Andrea Lee, and one of the hottest players on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean in Maja Stark of Sweden.


Stark, who played at Oklahoma State, has won four times on the Ladies European Tour, including the ISPS Handa World Invitational in Northern Ireland, which was co-sanctioned by the LPGA Tour.

She is up to No. 47 in the women’s world ranking, and at No. 54 in the Race to CME Globe, is trying to secure of the 60 spots in the season finale in Florida in November.

European — Rory McIlroy and US Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick are getting quite comfortable on next year’s Ryder Cup course.

Europe captain Luke Donald, meanwhile, made a novice’s error after hitting into the thick rough at the Marco Simone club outside Rome and then hitting the wrong ball, earning himself a two-stroke penalty.

McIlroy (66) produced an eagle for the second consecutive day and Fitzpatrick (69) had five straight birdies in the second round as they stood 1-2, respectively, near the midpoint of the Italian Open. The round was suspended because of darkness for the second straight day.

McIlroy — playing in Italy for the first time as a pro specifically to gain familiarity with the Ryder Cup course — was at 9-under 133 overall with Fitzpatrick one stroke behind.

“Fitz has had an unbelievable year, first major championship and he’s obviously matured into one of the best players in the world,” McIlroy said. “Looking forward to going up against him over the weekend.”