GORDON SEAY PHOTO
Max Homa apparently is feeling right at home.
Homa, who grew in Valencia about an hour’s drive from Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, carded a three-under-par 68 to take a one-stroke lead over third-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain, Keith Mitchell and Lee Hodges midway through the 96th version of the Genesis Invitational, formerly the Los Angeles Open.
In addition, tournament host Tiger Woods shot 74 and made the cut on the number.
“It had a great warmup, but didn’t hit the ball well off the tee today and overall it was a little scrappy,” said Homa, who has claimed four of his six PGA Tour victories in California, including this tournament two years ago. “My short game hadn’t been very good, but I’ve been working on it a lot for the last year or so and it was fun to showcase that improvement today.
“I love this golf course and tournament, but it was tough but awesome out there today. Although I struggled a little at times, I played pretty well most of the time, at least well enough. You’re going to miss some putts, you can make some too, and I did that today. I thought I was reading them well.
“I’m just going to keep working on my swing and see what happens on the weekend.”
Homa, who won the Farmers Insurance Open last month at Torrey Pines Golf Course in La Jolla, birdied four of nine holes before making his second bogey of the day on No. 18 as darkness closed in and recorded a 36-hole score of 10-under 132.
Rahm hit a wild five-wood from 270 yards on the 17th hole and it bounced off the grandstand to within four feet of the hole and he sank the putt for his second eagle of the round after also sinking an 18-foot eagle putt at No. 1 in his 68.
“Obviously, that was a lucky shot, but I’ll take it,” said Rahm, who has won four of his last eight events around the world. “I was just hoping the ball landed in the sand, but sometimes luck just goes your way. Actually, it was a little bit embarrassing and I just couldn’t believe that it worked out for an eagle. It’s always great to make an eagle, no matter what the circumstances.
“My swing has been a little off and I’ve been having a hard time hitting the greens, but I’m feeling really good on the greens here at Riviera. I just have to work on my swing tomorrow and find the fairways off the tee the rest of the way, and I feel the rest of my game will give me a chance to win.”
Mitchell, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2019 Honda Classic, made two late birdies before a closing bogey left him a 69, while Hodges, who is seeking his first PGA Tour title, made one early bogey but had six birdies the rest of the way in a 66.
Ninth-ranked Collin Morikawa of La Canada Flintridge and Cal made three birdies on the back nine in a 68 and is two shots behind in solo fifth, followed one more back by fifth-ranked Patrick Cantlay of Los Alamitos and nearby UCLA, who birdied five holes in flawless final 13 holes in a 67.
Second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who has three victories including the Tour Championship in the last several months, had a single bogey against three birdies in a 69 and is four down in a tie for seventh with Matt Kuchar, who made three birdies coming home in a 70.
Gary Woodland, the 2019 U.S. Open Champion at Pebble Beach, made three birdies on the back nine in a 68 and is five strokes behind in a tie for ninth with Danny Willett of England, who had four birdies on his back nine in a 69, and Will Zalatoris, who was three-under for the day after 17 holes with four birdies on the back nine and decided not to finish until Saturday morning.
Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, coming off his victory in the WM Phoenix Open last week, had three birdies on his back nine in a 68 and was tied for 12th, while seventh-ranked Justin Thomas made thee bogeys down the stretch in a 73 and is tied for 33rd.
Woods made bogeys on three of the last four holes to finish a 74 and made the cut on the number in a tie for 60th that included sixth-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, who holed out from 173 yards for an eagle at No. 17 to salvage another 74.
“I missed a lot of short putts, especially on the front nine, just pushed them,” said Woods, who has never won his hometown event 14 attempts, finishing second twice. “Also, I made two bad shots on Nos. 6 and 9 that cost me bogeys coming in (on the front nine).
“It was hard to finish that way and I just hope I have a chance to play the weekend.”
Woods does, but 10th-ranked Matt Fitzpatrick of England won’t after shooting 73-71—144 with a late birdie to miss the cut by one stroke.
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