Defending champion Max Homa and Danny Willett share the lead in Napa

Max Homa watches his shot from the second tee at the Silverado Resort North Course during the first round of the Fortinet Championship PGA golf tournament in Napa, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

Max Homa watches his shot from the second tee at the Silverado Resort North Course during the first round of the Fortinet Championship PGA golf tournament in Napa, Calif. on Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

PA

Max Homa put himself in position to defend his Fortinet Championship title, shooting a 5-under 67 on Friday to share the lead from the start of 36 holes with Danny Willett in the PGA Tour season opener.

Homa, a two-time winner last season and captain’s choice 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 the Silverado Resort & Spa.

“The course matches my eyes,” Homa said. “I hit a lot of wedgers today and I hit wedgers really well, so when I get a lot of fairway wedgers like these, I feel like I can attack the pins.”

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

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

Willett, without a win in the United States since his triumph at the Masters in 2016, shot a bogeyless 64. The England player has retained his PGA Tour card for this season due to players defecting to the Saudi-funded LIV Golf series.

“Yeah, we were kind of given a lifeline with the guys leaving, which was nice,” Willett said. “We kind of had to re-evaluate things and decided to go ahead and play a bit more this fall here and really try to get some points early.”

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

He birdied eight in his second round and suffered no bogeys for the week.

“You know, the rough is random and the greens are as firm as they come. To be bogey-free is really good,” said Willett, who has just six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour. since winning his only major. “The court game is pretty sharp, the short game is pretty sharp.”

First-round leader Justin Lower was two shots after a 71. His best result in the previous 28 PGA Tour events dating back to 2013 was a tie for eighth place.

“It’s always difficult to follow a very low round with another good round or even lower,” Lower said. “But I will take one today. Could it have been better? Yes, but it certainly could have been worse too.

Jason Day, Harris English, Charley Hoffman and Webb Simpson were among the players who missed the cut.

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Naomi C. Amerson