Those struggling badly with their passion would do themselves well by taking some inspiration from Max Homa.
The recent PGA Tour career of Homa – a 28-year-old California native, could not really be described using any positive words. Yeah, he made the big leagues, so obviously he is a really, really good golfer, but when compared to his PGA Tour contemporaries, he had been nothing short of awful. That fact had him nowhere near the list of favorites for this week’s Wells Fargo Championship, played at the daunting Quail Hollow Club.
Over four days, however – despite the brutal difficulty of Quail Hollow, all of Homa’s hard work and practice came together, as he shockingly became the Tour’s newest first time winner, taking the Wells Fargo Championship by three strokes over Joel Dahmen and by four over World No. 2 Justin Rose.
Another day of heavy rains in Charlotte made the task even more difficult for the field, but Homa somehow looked like he had been there a million times. Starting the day in a three-way tie for the lead with Dahmen, and former PGA Championship winner Jason Dufner, Homa was cool and collected, carding just one bogey the entire day (No. 16) en route to a 4-under 67 to reach 15-under for the week – he lowest score anyone has reached in five years, and the third-lowest score in tournament history.
Perhaps most impressively, Homa outshot his third-round playing partner Rory McIlroy, the World No. 4, and a 15-time PGA Tour champion (including four majors), by six strokes. McIlroy has a ridiculously great history at Quail Hollow and is the only two-time winner of this event, so when he went into the final day just two strokes off the pace, he figured to be in contention until the end. That did not happen, as a mid-round collapse led to a shocking 2-over 72, knocking him into a share of 8th place.
So, just how poor has Homa’s recent career been? We were not exaggerating. In 2017, Homa made 17 PGA Tour starts, making just two cuts, with finishes of 85th and 71st in the two events where he played past Friday. In 2018, he was in the midst of an underwhelming season on the Web.com Tour, and needed to birdie the final four holes of the regular season’s final event just to make the Web.com Finals, where he played just well enough to secure a 2019 PGA Tour card.
In his current campaign on the big tour, Homa finished T60 in the season-opening Safeway Open before missing his next six cuts. He seemed to right the ship somewhat in the month of February, producing four-straight finishes inside the top-40, including a 10th-place spot at Pebble Beach (his only top 10 before today). But in his four most recent starts, entering Charlotte, he’d missed two more weekends and finished T52 and T42 in the two other starts. This win clearly came out of nowhere, and now Homa is a PGA Tour winner, and will not be without a Tour card for at least two and a half years. If this win was the start of something new, that absence could be much, much longer.
FINAL TOP-10 FINISHERS
Pos-Player-Score (Final Rd)
1. Max Homa -15(-4)
2. Joel Dahmen -12 (-1)
3. Justin Rose -11 (-3)
4. Rickie Fowler -9 (-3)
4. Sergio Garcia -9 (-3)
4. Paul Casey -9 (-2)
4. Jason Dufner -9 (+2)
8. Kyle Stanley -7 (-3)
8. Jhonattan Vegas -7 (-2)
8. Keith Mitchell -7 (-2)
8. Rory McIlroy -7 (+2)
8. Pat Perez -7 (+3)
18. Webb Simpson, Aaron Wise -5
24. Brian Harman, Jason Day -4
28. Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed -3
31. Hideki Matsuyama, Lucas Glover -2
45. Adam Long, Jimmy Walker E
60. Tony Finau +3
How Max Homa Won the Wells Fargo Championship
Homa showed impressive consistency all week. He was just one stroke off the 36-hole co-lead after a 69-63 start, with the latter tying Dufner for the field’s lowest round of the week. A third-round 70, despite being paired with McIlroy, got him into that three-way lead going into Sunday. On Sunday, Homa played much better than Dahmen, and much, much better than Dufner.
From hole Nos. 5-7, Homa and Dahmen both carded two birdies, keeping themselves ahead with 11 holes to go, but from there in, Homa took control of the tournament. A bogey from Dahmen on No. 9 put Homa ahead for good, and he was able to build a considerable lead with birdies on Nos. 10, 11, and 15.
Going into the green mile (Nos. 16-18) with a four-shot advantage, a bogey on 16 had little impact, while pars on Nos. 17 and 18 secured a three-shot win. He nailed his winning putt on the final hole from nearly 10 feet away, showing amazingly little in the way of nerves, considering he’d never been in that position before.
For the week, Homa’s putter was his best friend. He gained 4.1 strokes to the field with his putting on Sunday, and gaining nearly 10 strokes for the week – he led that statistic by a considerable amount.
Homa’s 20 birdies for the week were second-best in the field, while his five bogeys tied for first. He was also second in the field in scrambling, which was very encouraging given how poorly he’d played this season around the greens – an area that has been statistically his worst.
Max Homa’s Final Stats
Driving: 312.6 yards (20th)
Fairways: 31/56, 55.4% (50th)
Greens: 49/72, 67.6% (21st)
Putts: 1.604 (1st)
Scoring: 20 Birdies, 47 Pars, 5 Bogeys
What It Means For Homa
It means security, something Homa remarked after the round that he had never had on the PGA Tour before. He now has his Tour card for the rest of this season, and for all of the next two.
Homa has made just one major start in his career, missing the cut at the 2013 U.S. Open, but he is now in the field for two more. He will be playing the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in two weeks, and he has an invite to next year’s Masters Tournament.
When the new Official World Golf Rankings come out on Monday, Homa will be a precipitous rise in his ranking. He started the week ranked 417th, but with the win at Quail Hollow, he rises an absurd 315 spots, all the way to World No. 102. His previous high ranking was 261st, which he achieved after a T29 finish at the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Max Homa’s 2019 PGA Tour Season
Cuts Made: 7
Wins: 1 (Wells Fargo Championship)
Additional Top 10s: 1
Money: $1,795,284 (30th)
Points: 669 (35th)
World Rank Before/After: 417th/102nd
Rory’s Rough Sunday
Quail Hollow Club has historically been Rory’s playground, but on Sunday, the man who shot a fourth-round 62 in 2010 to earn his first career PGA Tour victory, looked anything but comfortable.
Just two strokes off the final-round lead, McIlroy was in position for his second victory of the season, and third Wells Fargo title. However, he was unable to get anything going early, parring the first eight holes, including the par-5 7th despite having an eagle putt from inside 20 feet. He then effectively ended his chances with a bogey-double bogey stretch on Nos. 9 and 10. Two birdies to one bogey over his final eight holes meant a poor 2-over 73, and a drop into a share of 8th-place.
For the week, Rory was incredible off-the-tee and with his approaches, but his short game was abysmal: he finished 67th in the field in strokes gained: around-the-green, and 64th in strokes gained: putting.
Despite the disappointing finish, though, it was Rory’s eighth top-10 in just ten starts on the season. He currently ranks third in the FedExCup Standings, trailing just Matt Kuchar and Xander Schauffele, neither of whom played this week.
Given the circumstances, Homa’s final-round was undoubtedly the best of anyone in the field, but one man did manage to tie his Sunday 67: Shawn Stefani. The 37-year-old Lamar product very nearly had low Sunday honors, as he had reached 5-under on the day after birdies on Nos. 13, 14, 15, and 17, but an awful drive on 18 led to a bogey that meant a still-great 67.
For the week, Stefani finished T13, which is very impressive considering he looked like a long-shot to even make the cut after an atrocious first-round 5-over 76.
Justin Rose, the current World No. 2, who has been alternating at the No. 1 position all season with Dustin Johnson, has been largely hit-or-miss on the PGA Tour this season, and his start at Quail Hollow was his first since missing the cut at The Masters last month.
On Sunday, Rose had just one blemish on his card: a bogey on the par-4 3rd hole, and with four birdies, including three in a stretch from Nos. 7-10, he shot a final-round 3-under 68 to finish in solo-third.
Sunday’s biggest riser was a man who was in the championship mix at Quail Hollow a year ago. Nick Watney finished T2 to Jason Day at last year’s Wells Fargo Championship, but while most of his week in the 2019 edition was a disappointment, Watney again showed familiarity with the course, shooting a 3-under 67 that pushed him 28 spots up the final leaderboard, into a tie for 31st. Watney parred the entire front nine, but caught fire on the back, carding birdies on Nos. 10, 12, 14, and 15.
Rory was the big name to struggle on Sunday, but he was not the only one. Jason Dufner became one of the best golfers in the world in 2012 and 2013, with the apex being his victory at the 2013 PGA Championship, but he has mostly struggled to stay relevant in recent years, at least on a consistent basis, as he came into the week ranked 230th in the world.
Dufner played well enough at Quail Hollow to hold the 54-hole co-lead, but he looked uncomfortable right from the start, carding bogeys on Nos. 2 and 3 and was suddenly in an uphill battle. He got his round back to even-par through 17 holes, but a double-bogey on the 18th meant a 2-over 73 and a T4 finish.
Largely due to injury, Pat Perez has been terrible since the calendar flipped to 2019, but was looking on the verge of getting his game back when he reached 10-under through three rounds, which had him just one stroke off the lead going into the Sunday.
However, Perez had a nightmare start to his fourth-round, carding a double-bogey on the opening hole and then adding three more bogeys (to no birdies) by the turn. He did play the back nine in bogey-free 2-under, but that was too little, too late. Perez shot a 3-over 74 to drop into a share of 8th place.
Two other high-profile players who are in the midst of very disappointing seasons matched Perez’s 3-over 74: Patrick Reed and Tony Finau.
Reed started the day five strokes out of the lead, giving himself an outside chance of his first title since the 2018 Masters, but he had four back-nine bogeys and ended up falling 19 spots down the final leaderboard, into a tie for 28th. A T7 at the WGC-HSBC Champions back in October, Reed’s first start of the season, is his only top 10 in 13 starts this season.
Finau, meanwhile, had just one birdie in a round of 74 to finish T60. Coming off a breakthrough season where he had three runner-up finishes among 11 top-10s, Finau has been almost completely irrelevant in 2019, aside from contending at The Masters, where he made the final Sunday pairing before late troubles dropped him into a tie for fifth.
WITB: Max Homa Scores Win With Titleist
The 28-year old Californian won his maiden title playing a full Titleist bag, from driver (TS4) to golf ball (Pro V1).
Driver: Titleist TS4 (9.5°)
Fairway: Titleist TS3 (15°)
Hybrid: Titleist 818 H2 (19°)
Irons: Titleist 718 MB (4-9)
Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 (46°, 50°, 54°, 60°)
Putter: Scotty Cameron T5W
Ball: Titleist Pro V1
Hat: Titleist Hat
“Over the moon, man! It’s hard coming off that Web category; I have some serious scar tissue from out here, and it means a lot to me to be able to do this under pressure, and job security is great, I haven’t had that before.”
– Max Homa, 2019 Wells Fargo Championship Winner
Final Leaderboard: Scores, Money, Points
Quail Hollow Club | Charlotte, NC | May 2-5, 2019
Credits: PGA Tour Media, Getty Images, Fastscripts