How Homa's four clutch birdies in Portland led to his PLAYERS debut
March 11, 2020
By Adam Stanley, PGATOUR.COM
- March 11, 2020
Max Homa roasts celebrity golf swings
The four birdies Homa made at the 2018 WinCo Foods Portland Open presented by Kraft-Heinz. It was make-or-break. Reflecting back, he doesn’t really know what he would have done if he didn’t earn a spot in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals.
Alas, he doesn’t need to think about the bad. Only the good that came from toughing out a hard stretch with a little luck, lots of skill, and the mental fortitude that has spring-boarded him to playing in his first THE PLAYERS Championship this week at TPC Sawgrass.
“I truly think about those four holes maybe weekly, considering where it’s gotten me now and where it could have possibly gotten me if I hadn’t,” said Homa.
Homa won the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship and is making his debut at THE PLAYERS. In 2018, he had to make the cut at the Korn Ferry Tour’s Regular Season finale in order to earn a spot in the Finals, secure fully exempt status for 2019 and maintain a chance at a 2018-19 TOUR card.
“I knew that if I made the cut, I made the Finals. I thought if I didn’t, I had a pretty good chance. It was the perfect storm of people who all needed to play well to pass me were doing that, which was a bummer,” he said with a laugh. “Fortunately it didn’t matter too much.”
On Friday in Portland two years ago, Homa made a bogey on No. 14, and he said he was thinking that maybe it wasn’t over-over, but it was going to be difficult for him to make the cut. He thought he needed three birdies at least, if not four.
But he hit it close on No. 15 and dropped that birdie, and then he had a bit of a miracle on No. 16.
He badly hooked his drive and he had to hit out of a bush.
“It was a mix of luck, maybe a little fate and my caddie saying the right thing,” said Homa.
It was in some “wispy grass,” Homa recalled, and it was all flat around his ball except, of course, where his ball ended up – inside some of that grass that had been tufted up. He had a 6-iron in his hands, about 180 yards away. His caddie told him to ‘just hit a Tiger shot.’
“And I don’t really know what that means,“ said Homa, laughing. “But I guess it means do something cool.”
He hit it “unbelievable” and the ball looked about five feet from the hole, but rolled away to about 30 feet. Still, Homa made the putt. He’d go on to hit it close on No. 15 for another one and he two-putted for a final birdie on the par-5 18th.
“It was one of those things where I don’t think I could have done it again,” said Homa, who eventually finished 73rd on the Regular Season Points List.
He said the reason he still thinks about those holes to this day is because of what they taught him about how mentally strong he could be, when he needed to be.
“I always thought I was pretty tough mentally, but that proved it in my head,” he said.
Last week at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, for example, Homa struggled to a closing 76. If things would go sideways in past years, he said, everything would crumble. Now he said his game is feeling more whole.
“There were a lot of stepping stones,” said Homa, “from those four holes in Portland to winning at the Wells Fargo to now, playing in my first PLAYERS Championship.”