Max Homa wins Fortinet Championship
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Self-belief is on the rise after second victory of 2021, third overall
Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR
Max Homa curves in 18-foot birdie putt at Fortinet Championship
NAPA, Calif. – Max Homa was 6 years old when he and his dad walked into the clubhouse at Vista Valencia Golf Course and saw Joe Greiner, one of the best 10-year-old golfers around.
Homa was star-struck. Even his dad was a little star-struck.
“There were two guys, two kids sitting there, Brandon Christianson and Joe Greiner,” Homa said after carding a 7-under 65 to win the Fortinet Championship by a shot over Maverick McNealy (68). “I remember my dad pointed to them and said, ‘I'm pretty sure those are the two best kids here,’ and I just remember Joe's head was just enormous.
“It's still big now,” he added, “but on that little body as a kid it really stood out.”
Some 24 years later, Homa and Greiner make up one of the most potent player/caddie partnerships on the PGA TOUR. In weeks off, Homa stays sharp in part by playing against Greiner at home in Scottsdale, Arizona. And on TOUR, their easy familiarity and Greiner’s intimate knowledge of Homa’s game pays dividends.
“He's an incredible caddie all the time,” Homa said, “but he's particularly amazing when it's firm, just telling me what he thinks numbers or where the ball needs to land.”
Case in point: Homa’s pivotal hole-out for eagle from 95 yards at the par-4 12th hole. Greiner, having watched Homa scare the hole with a succession of wedge shots, told him where to land the ball. The shot kick started a furious finish – 5 under for his last seven holes – that netted the Cal grad his third TOUR title after playing from behind for most of the day.
Homa was a ball-striking machine on the weekend and made over 108 feet of putts in the final round to surpass Stanford product McNealy in what became a sort of unofficial golf version of the Cal-Stanford Big Game.
All of which surprised Greiner not one iota, he said. He saw the greatness decades ago. What was Homa like at 6? “Shy,” Greiner said. “He looked up to us for whatever reason. I think he was intimidated by us until he was probably 15 or 16.”
Homa was 17 or 18, Greiner added, when he really started to blossom. Greiner was playing professionally in Canada.
“And I played with him,” he said, “and was like, you know, he’s got something different to him. You could just tell.”
Sure enough, Homa had a solid college career, worked his way onto the PGA TOUR, and won the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship and 2021 Genesis Invitational at Riviera, beating Tony Finau in a playoff.
Still, despite evidence to the contrary, and Greiner in his ear, Homa could be the last guy to realize he was great.
The difference in 2021 is that’s starting to change. Homa played with world No. 1 Jon Rahm over the first two rounds at Silverado – and came out ahead. He played with Hall of Famer Phil Mickelson on Saturday – and came out ahead. His self-belief, the last piece of the puzzle, is crystalizing before our eyes.
“Yeah, I think I've always struggled a bit with confidence and walking around like I'm the man out here,” Homa said.
Each time he’s won, though, he’s gotten to compare himself to those players and seen that, well, maybe he is the man. When he won the Wells Fargo he got to play with Rory McIlroy. When he won the Genesis, it was Dustin Johnson.
“When I'm out here playing with people like Rahm and Phil and DJ and Rory and JT and Berger and all the guys,” Homa said, “I see that, yes, there's a level of excellence that's incredible, but it's not – I don't feel like I'm chasing a ghost.”
Added Greiner: “It’s nice to play alongside them and see that what they’re doing isn’t so different than what he’s doing.”
Meanwhile, Homa, 30, has intensified his focus. He used to host a golf podcast with Shane Bacon but gave it up when he decided he wanted to keep the main thing the main thing. “I felt like it wasn’t healthy for me,” he said.
Although the Fortinet was his third TOUR win, it was the first witnessed by his wife, Lacey. He joked afterward that she had only seen one top-10 finish from him, so it was about time.
Greiner, though, has been there for it all.
“He’s proved it that he’s a winner,” Greiner said. “He just needs to put himself in that position; that’s all he’s lacking. When he’s feeling good, he’s pretty deadly.”
Cameron Morfit began covering the PGA TOUR with Sports Illustrated in 1997, and after a long stretch at Golf Magazine and golf.com joined PGATOUR.COM as a Staff Writer in 2016. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.