World No. 1 and double Irish Open winner Jon Rahm will create PGA Tour history in teeing-up at this week’s 2021/22 season-opening Fortinet Championship in Napa, California.
The event was first played in 2007 as the Fry’s Electronic Open and was renamed a year later as the Frys.com Open, with Fortinet, a cyber security firm with total assets of over $4B, signing on for six years as the new title sponsor.
Rahm is in the field and competing a week prior to making his second straight Ryder Cup appearance. What makes his appearance historical is that it’s the first occasion a current No. 1 player in the world has competed at the Fortinet Championship with Phil Mickelson the previous highest in the world when, as then ranked No. 2, he teed-up in the 2007 event.
And this week’s field also boasts three of the four reigning major champions in Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama, Mickelson as the PGA Championship winner and Rahm who captured the U.S. Open.
As well, there are 27 rookies in this season’s class on the PGA Tour, the most in a season since 2011 (35). Twenty-five of them, all but Austria’s Matthias Schwab and Callum Tarren, are classed as Tour rookies. Two others in Max McGreevy and Jarod Wolfe are making their PGA Tour debut.
A second Irish Open winner in Scotland’s Russell Knox has crossed the North American continent to take his place in the Fortinet Championship. Knox is no stranger to the event first contesting it in 2012 and sharing ninth place. He returned in 2013 to finish T26th though in 2014, when the Silverado course first hosted the event, the Scot played all four rounds to settle for a share of 68th place.
He missed the cut at the 2015 event that was the opening event of the 2015/16 season but then in his fourth start that year, Knox brilliantly captured the WGC – HSBC Championship in Shanghai. Knox went back to the Frys.com Open in 2018 but missed the cut while he skipped last September when Open Champion Stewart Cink, with his son Reagan acting as caddy, finished first.
This week thus marks Knox’s sixth appearance in the renamed Fortinet Championship which will herald the start of 48 events on the Tour’s 2021/22 schedule.
A notable absentee is West Waterford’s Seamus Power, missing the opening event of a new season for all the right reasons. Power teed-up on the Silverado course for three years running from 2017 to 2019, purely out of necessity to give himself a good springboard into the new season but unfortunately, he missed the cut on each occasion.
Though that all changed on July 18th earlier this year when Power earned a two-year exemption in capturing a maiden Tour win at the Barbasol Championship, giving him the luxury of a planned schedule meaning there’s no need to go trekking all the way to California.
I am sure this is going to be one event Seamus will thoroughly enjoy watching from the comfort of his living room.