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Max Homa letting it happen at 88th Masters Tournament

4 Min Read


Max Homa heads into the weekend at the 88th Masters firmly in contention at 6-under par. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

Max Homa heads into the weekend at the 88th Masters firmly in contention at 6-under par. (Warren Little/Getty Images)

In light of lackluster record, resolved to stop trying so hard

    Written by Cameron Morfit @CMorfitPGATOUR

    AUGUSTA, Ga. – There are many reasons to posit why Max Homa is in contention to win the 88th Masters Tournament despite barely breaking a pinecone around here in four previous starts.

    There’s the clarifying effect of playing with Tiger Woods for two days. There’s Homa’s realization that he does better if he plays the week before a major. There’s the notion that he’s simply too good and success was bound to get in the way sooner or later.

    But to paraphrase Crash Davis, the famous catcher from “Bull Durham,” the only thing that matters is what Homa himself believes is the reason for his good play. In this case, it’s because he isn’t busting a vein to TRY and play well.

    “I wrote something in my journal yesterday that said however good I am is however good I am,” he said. “I don't need to try to be better than I am, and just see where that takes me. Maybe it's winning this and maybe it's not, and I'm OK with that. I know what I put into this game.

    “Trying to get every ounce back doesn't really work,” he added, “and I've tried that part.”

    His perspective this week has worked, though. At 6-under 138, Homa is tied for the clubhouse lead with Bryson DeChambeau. Homa followed his first-round 67 with a 71 on Friday.

    That sort of teeth-gnashing can be especially ineffective in tough conditions. Homa, Woods and Jason Day had to return to play their last five holes of Round 1 early Friday. They went 23 holes in total, and the wind picked up as the day wore on. Their last hole of Round 2 featured a freak sandstorm. The intensifying wind blew the sand out of the bunkers, sending the players ducking for cover.

    “It was kind of even the golf course saying, ‘Get the hell out of here,’” Homa said.

    Funny. That’s the same response you’d have gotten had you told a friend you picked Homa to win this week. He came into this Masters with a 74.1 scoring average and two missed cuts in four starts at Augusta National. He had never broken 70, and his best finish was a T43 last year. Do they give out crystal for that?

    This is also the same guy who has regularly poked fun at himself for having just one top-10 finish in a major – a T10 at The Open Championship last summer.

    Which gets to another reason why Homa is playing well. Performing under pressure is partly a matter of adding layers of self-belief, each layer making the next one ever more likely. In his prime, Woods took this to the extreme, adding layer upon layer in the biggest moments until no one, especially not him, believed he could lose.

    After his best-ever result in a major at The Open last July, Homa put in a laudable performance at the Ryder Cup in Rome, going 3-1-1 to provide a rare U.S. highlight. He punctuated his week with an 8-foot par putt to beat Matt Fitzpatrick in singles, knowing that if he missed Europe would clinch the Cup.

    "I had such a good week, personally, on the golf course that I knew I would be labeled a 'choker' and it just didn't feel like a fair thing,” Homa later told the No Laying Up podcast. “But I remember I really turned my brain on. 'You wanted this. This is a very cool opportunity.’” Although he went on to admit that his legs were shaking, Homa, in making that putt, did much more than postpone the inevitable U.S. loss. He added a layer.

    “Well, he's got all the talent in the world,” Woods said of Homa on Friday. “I got a chance to play with him at the (2022) Open Championship at St. Andrews, and his ball flight, as solid as he hits it, it's just a matter of time before he starts winning in bunches.

    “I saw it up front; he doesn't really mis-hit shots,” Woods continued. “That's something you just have to do around this golf course.”

    Homa has not had a three-putt in two days. He made just two bogeys in 23 holes Friday and was a human highlight film. At the end of his first round, he nearly holed out from the fairway at the par-4 17th hole, tapping in for birdie. And at the start of his second, he hit a 240-yard 7-wood to 37 feet and drained the birdie putt at the par-3 fourth hole.

    He anticipated writing more in his journal.

    “Probably pretty similar stuff,” Homa said. “Five or six things I'm grateful for, usually people. Sometimes opportunity. I'll be quite grateful to get to play Saturday at the Masters.

    “Yeah, and probably just write down about what I learned from today and what I'm going to take with me,” he added, “and a lot of it is just going to be back to that detachment from the result. Just do the best I can, and that might be great, and it might not be, but I'm just going to be OK with that.”

    Cameron Morfit is a Staff Writer for the PGA TOUR. He has covered rodeo, arm-wrestling, and snowmobile hill climb in addition to a lot of golf. Follow Cameron Morfit on Twitter.

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