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Max Homa, the 2021 Genesis Invitational champ, fires 7-under 64 in opening round while Jon Rahm looms one back

PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. – Jon Rahm and Max Homa, the only two players to win twice this season on the PGA Tour, went low on Thursday at Riviera Country Club in their pursuit of becoming the first three-time winner this season.

Homa, who won here in 2021, made eight birdies, including holing a bunker shot at 10, and signed for a 7-under 64 to grab the early lead at the Genesis Invitational. Rahm, who already owned the best career scoring average at Riviera, lowered it to 69.11 by posting a 6-under 65 to stay hot on Homa’s heels.

“It just felt like every aspect of my game felt good, good enough to shoot under par,” Homa said.

Homa’s day began with a bang. Starting on the 302-yard 10th hole, his flop shot to the green from 63 feet left of the hole failed to clear the bunker fronting the green and a potential big number loomed. That is until Homa rescued himself from any predicament by holing out for birdie. Then he was off and running.

“That was probably the coolest way I’ve ever started a round,” Homa said. “I thought I collected myself. I knew I hadn’t done a whole lot wrong so trusted my bunker game. I hit a very good bunker shot, I will say, but that was a nice boost.

“It felt like it was going to be one of those ‘hang on days’ and to start with the circle on the scorecard, it just eases you as you start a tournament,” he said.

Homa made his lone bogey at 15 but bounced back with a birdie one hole later and saved his best for last on his final three holes, Nos. 7-9. Homa, who already has won twice in California this season at the Fortinet Championship in Napa and the Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego, hit all three fairways to set up short irons approaches and converted them all into birdies.

“My irons felt so good today it felt like then it was just kind of turn your brain off and hit the thing,” he said.

Rahm also opened with a birdie at 10, but did so by driving the green and taking two putts from 56 feet. He, too, carded eight birdies but made one more bogey than Homa – at Nos. 15 and 2.

Rahm, who won in consecutive starts to the start the year at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii and the American Express in Palm Springs, California, remains red hot. He has recorded five consecutive top-10s and shows no signs of slowing down.

“I think a lot of players have enjoyed three, four months of really good golf, I think extending that for a very long time like Tiger was able to do and many other great players have been able to do is the more difficult thing,” Rahm said. “Hopefully I can keep it going. I think it feels really hard getting to the top, but I think once you get there, staying for a long period of time is harder.”

Rahm said the cold, windy weather during Wednesday’s pro-am left players discussing whether anybody would have been able to break par had the tournament started in such conditions.

“When Justin Thomas was asking you that question, you know the course was playing pretty freaking difficult,” Rahm said. “When I came out this morning with no wind, it was like, oh, this should be a little bit easier.”

Matt Kuchar was alone in third after shooting 66. Tiger Woods, who was making his first official start since the British Open in July, played in the afternoon wave in a grouping with Rory McIlroy and Justin Thomas. World No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and fellow major winners Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa were behind them in another powerhouse pairing at the second straight designated event offering a $20 million purse.

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