Everybody is looking to begin the new PGA Tour season on a high note at the Fortinet Championship, but few might benefit more from a good start than Justin Lower, who finds himself the unlikely 54-hole leader at Silverado Resort & Spa in Napa, Calif.
In his last PGA Tour start, the Wyndham Championship in August, Lower frustrating three-putted his final hole to seemingly lose his tour card heading into the 2022-23 season. After the round, the 33-year-old got understandably emotional about what transpired, as the journeyman pro fell to 128th on the FedEx Cup eligibility points list.
But Lower got new life when Cameron Smith, Joaquin Niemann and four others jumped to LIV Golf after the Tour Championship. When they were suspended by the PGA Tour and thus dropped from the FedEx Cup eligibility list, Lower rose back to 122nd and kept his tour card.
Lower has taken that momentum to Napa, posting rounds of 63-71-69 to get to 13 under and grab a one-shot lead heading into Sunday’s final 18. It’s the first time he’s been a 54-hole leader in 28 PGA Tour starts; Lower’s best previous starting spot entering the final round on tour is T-6 at the Butterfield Bermuda Championship.
For Lower to close out his first tour win will require holding off a pair of proven winners—Max Homa and Danny Willett—who are each one shot back and playing with Lower in the final threesome. Homa is trying to join Brendan Steele as just the second repeat winner in the history of the Fortinet Championship and is looking to claim his fifth tour title a week before he makes his first start for the U.S. team in the President Cup. Willett is still looking for a second PGA Tour title after winning the 2016 Masters.
While a win brings with it plenty of perks, including starts in the Sentry Tournament of Champions and the Masters, the financial rewards aren’t anything for Lower to shrug off lightly. Sunday’s winner will earn a prize money payout of $1.44 million from an overall purse of $8 million. Lower’s biggest prize money payout in his tour career to date is $100,825 for a T-8 showing at the Barbasol Championship in July. His overall career tour earnings are $716,970.
Here’s a breakdown of prize money payouts for every player who made the cut this week. Come back shortly after the tournament is over and we’ll update with individual names and prize money payouts.