Max Homa is exempt through the first 12 events of the Web.com Tour season thanks to a run through all three stages of the Qualifying Tournament, culminating with a T6 finish. But in the meantime the 23-year-old is playing on a sponsor exemption this week at the Farmers Insurance Open, looking to build on finishes of T9 (Frys.com Open) and T30 (Shriners Hospitals for Children Open) last October on the PGA TOUR. The 2013 NCAA champion from Cal talked last week about teeing it up at Torrey Pines, tackling courses for the first time and following Jordan Spieth’s lead.
Are you more nervous or excited for Farmers, playing in a home game?
I’m pretty excited. I’m kind of playing on house money right now, playing on a sponsor’s exemption. But I’m really excited to get to tee it up with Tiger and Phil and all of them. It’s cool and I feel like it’s a good prep for the rest of the season.
How many times have you played Torrey Pines?
I’ve actually never played there.
How is that possible, being from Southern California? Just never worked out over the years?
I’ve walked it a lot for the tournament when it used to be the Buick, I’ve seen it a ton, it’s just expensive to play as a public course if you’re not from San Diego.
When you go on the Web.com Tour you’ll be playing a lot of places for the first time; how do you go about that when you’re seeing a course for the first time on a Monday or Tuesday?
I’ve had to do it a couple times already last fall. I feel like I put together a decent game plan -- we’ll play it on Monday, then maybe the nine that confuses us the most on Tuesday or Wednesday, then when we get out there Thursday and Friday we don’t play it all that aggressively. Hopefully by Saturday you’ve kind of figured it out and can take better advantage. But it’s definitely tough because you can’t usually get off to the greatest start because you’re still trying to figure it out.
How many ticket requests have you had for Farmers?
Oh, I’ve had a lot. There’s going to be a decent crowd. It will be fun getting to play in front of my friends and family.
When you made those couple starts on TOUR last year, did they introduce you on the tee as NCAA champion?
They did at the Frys.com. They ask (if they can), I tell them no and laugh, then they do it anyways.
Having that title, does it more pressure on you now, playing with the pros?
No, I think it’s pretty cool. I see how it could be pressure, but there’s a lot more NCAA champions playing out there than just me so I don’t feel like there’s anything on my back. It’s just kind of a nice thing to get to have in your back pocket.
As well as you played at the Frys.com, was that a light-bulb moment? Like you really belonged?
Yeah. When I played at the U.S. Open, I forgot to go up there and try to win. (He shot 73-78 and missed the cut.) At Frys I played more like I was trying to win this thing, and I hung in there. I didn’t play perfect, I played really well, obviously. It was good learning experience for me to see that I could play well with the big boys and hang in there.
What’s the greatest perk of playing in a PGA TOUR event?
Ooh. I mean, you’re treated pretty nicely. You feel a little bit more special. For me, being as young as I am, I just enjoy getting to see all the people I’ve watched on TV for 20 years.
Which guys on TOUR do you look up to?
Tiger’s always been my guy, the one I’ve tried to learn the most from. It’s going to be fun getting to tee it up with him.
Describe your game.
That’s a tough question. I’ve always prided myself on my iron game and my short game. I hit it decently far, I don’t have to hit driver everywhere.
For Web.com, you made it through all three stages of q-school. That’s a little different now, but can you appreciate what a rare feat that is for a guy going through it the first time?
I really forgot to think about it. It just felt good to play well in three stages and make it through, because there’s a lot of good golfers out there. It’s tough; if you’re not ‘on’ you have to figure out how to manage, and I did that. It’s a long three events. It’s tough on your mind and your golf game.
What stage is more nerve-wracking?
The first wasn’t nerve-wracking at all, I just came from the Vegas event and I was pretty much asleep when I got there, I was so tired. So I wasn’t even thinking about it. The second stage was more nerve-wracking, because if you don’t get through second stage, you don’t get any perks. If you just get to final, you get status somewhere, but if you don’t you don’t get a thing.
You’re exempt through the first 12 events of the Web.com Tour season, are you going to play them all?
No, I’ve gotten a few sponsor exemptions into TOUR events that overlap. I’m hoping to play a decent amount (of Web.com events), but I need to prioritize with the PGA TOUR events.
What other exemptions have you received?
I got into the AT&T (Pebble Beach), Puerto Rico and the Tampa event (Valspar).
You talk about exemptions and playing the PGA TOUR through those, do you look at what Jordan Spieth did as an inspiration? Could you pull off the same thing?
I look at it as a goal. At first it was kind of unattainable because of the way he played, but once I got off to that start I started thinking. I was just looking to have some fun, get some experience and maybe make some money, but now I really want to do what he did. There’s not a lot of people out there like him, but if I can kind of draw from what he did and pull it off myself, that would be pretty great for just my mindset in general.
When was the last time you bought a dozen golf balls?
Oh gosh, I couldn’t tell you. Maybe sophomore year of high school? (Laughs.)
What was the last movie you saw?
I saw “Wolf of Wall Street” and “American Hustle” in the last week. And “Lone Survivor.” I really liked “Wolf of Wall Street,” thought it was awesome. The story is crazy, and I like Leonardo DiCaprio. I didn’t really like “American Hustle”, which is weird because Christian Bale is one of my favorites. It didn’t really get my attention. And “Lone Survivor” was unreal, an intense movie.