Fortinet Championship: Clear skies, bright start to the PGA Tour season

Chez Reavie on the 18th green looks at his handy work a putt at the Silverado North Course on Sep 16, 2021 at the Fortinet Championship PGA golf tournament first round (AP News photo)

FORTINET CHAMPIONSHIP: Clear skies, bright start to the PGA Tour season

By Jeremy Harness

At this point last year, this tournament was played at a time where the skies were a dark orange color because of the fires that seemed to engulf the entire Northern California region. An eerie sight to see, to be sure.

Furthermore, there were no spectators allowed on the grounds due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, making this a thoroughly-depressing tournament to watch on television.

Fast forward 12 months, and even though there are fires burning around the region – particularly in the Lake Tahoe area – and COVID-19 is still most definitely a real thing – the atmosphere around Silverado Resort & Spa could not have been any different from 2020.

Golfers teed off Thursday morning and afternoon under clear skies, with no smell of fire smoke to speak of. And just as important, spectators were free to follow their favorite players, something they could only hope to be able to do again months earlier.

As for the Fortinet Championship itself, Chez Reavie overcame a tough start to take the lead after Thursday’s first round.

Starting on the 10th hole, he was one-over after the first six holes, but then he got rolling in a major way. He birdied eight of the final 12 holes, including three in a row to close out his round. When it was all said and done, he finished with a seven-under round of 65.

He isn’t the longest hitter out there – he was 117th in the field in driving distance Thursday while hitting 8 of 14 fairways, which ranked 23rd – but he hit 13 greens and was 2nd in putts-per-green-in-regulation, and he was the eighth-best putter overall.

“It was kind of a slow start but I told myself to stay patient, you have plenty of chances to make birdies, and I was able to do that coming in,” Reavie said. “But I was 1 over through six holes, I think. I was like, okay, stay patient, don’t become impatient. Yeah, fortunately I was able to make some birdies.”

The only real downer of this tournament is that since the Ryder Cup is next weekend, there aren’t nearly as many big names out there as a lot of fans would like. In fact, the only Ryder Cup participant who is playing this week is Jon Rahm, this year’s runner-up for the PGA Tour’s Player of the Year.

The Spaniard, who won the 2021 U.S Open, did not exactly get off to the kind of start he would have liked, particularly after also finishing second in this year’s Tour Championship, eventually losing out to Patrick Cantlay.

He was one-under for his first nine but endured a pair of tough bogeys on his second nine against one birdie, and he finished with an even-par round of 72. To be fair, Rahm had been battling a stomach ailment this week leading up to this event and has not felt anywhere close to 100 percent until Thursday.

“Not my best ball-striking day, a little tight today probably from having to be in bed for so long yesterday,” Rahm said. “So a little tight, just didn’t feel as fluid as it usually does. Even with how I felt, I played a little bit better than I thought I was going to, to be honest. Started great, started to hit some good shots, too bad I couldn’t capitalize on some of the good chances early on.

“Towards the end a lot of times my mind just wasn’t in it, I was having a hard time focusing given the fact that I haven’t had a solid meal since Tuesday morning. It is what it is. I just started, I’m feeling good now, so get a good meal right now and rest up the rest of the day. We have three more days to go. You can’t win it today, you can certainly lose it and it wasn’t my best day.”

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