L.A. The.A. At a very young age, Max Homa fell in love with The Genesis Invitational and Riviera Country Club. Well, at least he fell for their warm, soft pretzels.
Year after year, that inviting smell and salty taste kept young Max coming back. And it wasn’t long before he developed a serious love of the game. From the age of two, he was part of the tournament scenery, first as a child on the shoulders of his father, then as a young person seeking autographs and finally as a high school and college star dreaming of forging his own path on the storied layout.
That dream came true on Sunday when Homa beat Tony Finau in a playoff to claim his second TOUR victory, but even the best Hollywood writers may have had trouble scripting before a twist ending.
Homa arrived at the par-5 17th hole with Finau scorching the course ahead of him, needing a birdie to tie it. But he lost his approach by shooting himself in a bunker to the right, leaving himself on the short side. A clutch shot followed by a 6-foot putt sent him to the 18th hole, knowing that all of those wild childhood dreams could come true with one more birdie.
His drive is annihilated. And then hit a clean 3-foot wedge. It was all but protected. And Tiger Woods, in front of the tournament host and idol no less. Homa and his coach were talking about playing as Woods would have done. Over perfection position. Staying patient methodically prior to grasping the opportunities presented. He did so brilliantly. Till now.
“Obviously wasn’t a very good putt. It broke a little more than I would have liked it to for a three-footer. I just was a little nervous, honestly. This tournament means a lot to me,” Homa said after that seemingly simple putt lipped out and sent him to extra holes.
It was the sliding door kind of moment you see in sports. And with Finau trying to change his own narrative of being so close, but yet so far from victory in the last five seasons, one had the impression that the local prospect could be the death knell. Perhaps it might have been Finau’s time after all.
Not if Lacey, Homa’s wife, had something to do with it.
With her own nuggets of wisdom, Lacey has the habit of sending her husband off. At the very least, Sage’s advice she hopes will take her mind off the stressful moments of tournament play. “She sent him out on Sunday with a “forgive fast.
“She would give some really dumb advice every day before I play, they were very random. Sometimes they’re somewhat wise, but they’re just out of left field, whatever she could think of, so it was kind of ironic that that’s the one she came up with,” Homa recounted.
“She called me after (the missed putt), told me to remember to forgive quickly and it was kind of perfect because I played a pretty perfect round of golf, very flawless, so what was there to be too mad about? I was about to be in a playoff at the place I first fell in love with golf.”
When his tee shot on the par-4 10th opening playoff hole rolled up against a tree, that resolve was further tested shortly after. He’d be able to moan about it. He might have felt that it was not meant to be. But he produced an amazing recovery shot to the green instead, which would ultimately help extend the playoff.
“Sometimes when you get your creative brain working, you see it. I felt pretty good about putting it on the front right of the green. Just sometimes you have to trust your instincts and that’s kind of the fun of golf. It’s not always fairways and greens, you’ve got to be an artist at times and fortunately I did it when I needed to.”
Homa’s miracles were already being discussed on the infamous 10th. He hit what his fellow pros called one of the biggest shots ever hit on that hole during the wild winds of Saturday when he was able to stop the ball beneath the hole, on the green, from the bunker on the front right. In the final wash up, he would transform the birdie, obviously very essential.
A par on the second playoff hole was enough to secure the now 30-year-dream old’s after that escape. He also moved to 10th place in the FedExCup and secured a berth in next week’s World Golf Championships-Workday Championships at The Concession-not to mention a three-year TOUR exemption to win the elevated status event.
“I don’t know if I could ever do anything cooler in golf than this,” Homa beamed. “Just for me, for my caddie Joe, we were raised 25 miles north of here. Tiger Woods is handing us a trophy, that’s a pretty crazy thought. We grew up idolizing him, idolizing Riviera Country Club, idolizing the golf tournament. To get it done, it’s almost shocking, but it feels like it just can’t be topped.”