Weekly Recap: Fortinet Fortitude

Weekly Recap: Fortinet Fortitude

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

Immediately after successfully defending his title at the Fortinet Championship to kick of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, Max Homa was asked how he did it.

While Homa obviously had to play great to be in position to win, and sank a surreal chip-in for birdie on 18 to stay alive, the honest answer would've been: The other guy handed it to me.

In a cringe-worthy sequence on the 18th green, former Masters champion Danny Willett three-putted from 3 feet 7 inches to hand Homa the title on Sunday at Silverado Resort & Spa. The Englishman needed only to hole that short putt to win on Tour for the first time since that magical day at Augusta in 2016. There would be no such magic this time. Willett didn't even sniff the hole with his bridie putt, which scooted past and came to rest further away than it began. He missed again from almost five feet, and that was that.

For Homa, the win will eventually be remembered the same as all the others, of which there have been many the past few years. This was Homa's fifth career title, and this one moved him to a career-best 16th in the world rankings.

We have seen a steady progression from good to great by Homa, who's next box to check would be a major championship. Or perhaps his next box to check will come this week, when he competes in his first international team competition as a member of the

Immediately after successfully defending his title at the Fortinet Championship to kick of the 2022-23 PGA Tour season, Max Homa was asked how he did it.

While Homa obviously had to play great to be in position to win, and sank a surreal chip-in for birdie on 18 to stay alive, the honest answer would've been: The other guy handed it to me.

In a cringe-worthy sequence on the 18th green, former Masters champion Danny Willett three-putted from 3 feet 7 inches to hand Homa the title on Sunday at Silverado Resort & Spa. The Englishman needed only to hole that short putt to win on Tour for the first time since that magical day at Augusta in 2016. There would be no such magic this time. Willett didn't even sniff the hole with his bridie putt, which scooted past and came to rest further away than it began. He missed again from almost five feet, and that was that.

For Homa, the win will eventually be remembered the same as all the others, of which there have been many the past few years. This was Homa's fifth career title, and this one moved him to a career-best 16th in the world rankings.

We have seen a steady progression from good to great by Homa, who's next box to check would be a major championship. Or perhaps his next box to check will come this week, when he competes in his first international team competition as a member of the U.S. Presidents Cup team.

There were five golfers heading to Quail Hollow this week who took part in the Fortinet: Homa and four Internationals. It seemed like a high number the week before such a big event. It's understandable how Homa would want to defend his title -- it's the honorable thing to do -- but showing up for two days and heading to the airport would not have surprised anyone.

But Homa, Hideki Matsuyama and Taylor Pendrith all made the cut; Corey Conners and Cam Davis did not.

If there was any question how hard Homa tried to win, that was answered on the par-5 18th on Sunday, trailing Willett by a stroke. Willett was already in close after this third shot -- the aforementioned 3 feet, 7 inches -- and Homa was off the green playing four. It seemed a fait accompli that Willett would win, even if Homa made his chip. But he made it, the crowd roared and Homa fist-bumped his caddie.

And then Willett did the rest.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Danny Willett
Willett has led a charmed life on the PGA Tour. It was if he had nine lives. Not anymore. He had a win sitting on his putter from 43 inches – that's not nothing with so much at stake, though putts inside of four feet simply have to go in on the PGA Tour. Willett famously won the 2016 Masters out of nowhere, a victory that gave him a five-year exemption. That exemption ended last month – until the Tour eliminated LIV guys from the equation and Willett survived another year. This win would've given him two more. He has so much physical talent – he played a brilliant wedge shot from 66 yards to set up the short birdie putt – but the mental side so often gets in the way. That's a hard type of guy to count on in fantasy. It also will be hard for Willett to forget about this one.

Taylor Montgomery
Montgomery finished third in his first start since graduating from the Korn Ferry Tour. He was one of the RotoWire sleeper picks for this season and, while we obviously expected good things, this was beyond expectations so soon.  Montgomery led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting at more than 11 strokes, and there is nothing sleepy about that.

Justin Lower
We all remember the vision of an agonized Lower at the Wyndham after he thought he had lost his card. He ended up getting it back thanks to the LIV defections, and he is not letting this opportunity slip away again. Lower went a long way toward keeping his card for next year by finishing fourth, his career-best result on Tour. He surely seems to be a developing player, but don't lose sight that he was ranked well into the 300s OWGR coming in. He still has a lot of improving to do.

Byeong Hun An
An was the youngest ever winner of the U.S. Amateur at age 17 in 2009, then was the 2015 European Tour Rookie of the Year. His pedigree screamed greatness. But as most of us know, he flamed out on the PGA Tour, never having won, and had to play on the Korn Ferry Tour last season. An is now back, at age 31, and at least got off to a good start with a tie for fourth. It's too soon to make any long-term conclusions, but you have to start somewhere. 

Rickie Fowler
It's only one tournament! Everybody stay seated! Don't start renting a house for Masters week! Fowler, along with his new caddie and his new/old swing coach in Butch Harman, tied for sixth. Not only was Fowler top-10 in Strokes-Gained Off-the-Tee, he ranked 35th in Putting. That's where his game has truly eroded in recent years, and any return to past success on the greens could lead to a career renaissance. To really contend, he'll have to do better than 35th. But it's surely a promising start.

Harris English
English missed a big chunk of last season following hip surgery, then did little upon his return. He was mediocre for many years, then flipped a switch to multi-time winner and top-25 golfer, so it was fair to wonder if he'd be able to sustain that post-surgery. One tournament by no means determines all, but English took a huge step back with a tie for ninth at the Fortinet.
 
Paul Haley II
The first question is, who is this guy who just tied for 12th at a PGA Tour event? Haley won once on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and finished second twice, including once in the playoffs. That's who he is. Haley is not young, he's 34, and this was his first PGA Tour event since 2013. So while it's a great story, the chances of it leading anywhere seem slim.

Harrison Endycott
Here's another "Who is this guy?" guy. Like Haley, Endycott tied for 12th. Like Haley, he won on the KF Tour last season. Unlike Haley, he's only 26. Endycott is an Australian and this was his PGA Tour debut. We shall see.

Thomas Detry
Detry was among the more intriguing names emerging from the Korn Ferry playoffs. The Belgian has previously shown an ability to compete against PGA Tour competition in limited opportunities. Now, he will get to go head-to-head on a weekly basis. So far, so good, as the 29-year-old tied for 12th in his first start as a Tour member.

Corey Conners and Cam Davis
Both President Cuppers missed the cut, and they can be excused if their heads were elsewhere looking forward to next week's competition. On the other hand, the other three players who will be at Quail Hollow this week, Max Homa, Hideki Matsuyama and Taylor Pendrith, all made the cut.

Webb Simpson
Like those five players, Simpson is off to Quail Hollow -- not as a player, as a U.S. vice captain. So maybe it was curious he chose to play the Fortinet. He missed the cut. All it did was reinforce Simpson's big slump from last year, and extend it into a second season. Simpson is a yellow flag for fantasy until we see something more from the former top-5 golfer now ranked in the upper 80s.

Maverick McNealy
McNealy was high on a lot of people's lists, even at $9,900, in large part because he was runner-up here last year. He missed the cut. This is an important season for McNealy, who is now in his fourth full season on Tour, has never won and has never been ranked higher than 67th in the world.

Luke List
List did absolutely zero after winning at Torrey Pines in January, so we were interested to see whether a new season would offer some hope. No. List missed the cut after opening with a 74. We often see regression in a golfer after a maiden PGA Tour win, but this is now seven months of regression.

Justin Suh and Carl Yuan
Suh and Yuan were the top players on the Korn ferry Tour last season, so much is expected of them. They both missed the cut. It's only one week after a grind to the finish of the KF season, but we will be monitoring them.

DP World Tour

Robert MacIntyre, of whom so much has been expected for so long, scored the biggest win of his career, topping Matt Fitzpatrick in a playoff at the DS Automobiles Italian Open in Rome. The Scotsman had won once before, in 2020, but had since fallen outside the top-100 in the world. This win moved him up to 69th. He clearly is targeting making the 2023 European Ryder Cup team and this is a great start. Rory McIlroy finished fourth and there were some other names of note who will be playing on the PGA Tour: Aaron Rai and Lucas Herbert tied for fifth, Kurt Kitayama was seventh and Tyrrell Hatton was eighth.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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