THE PRESIDENTS CUP
Homa a hero in Presidents Cup debut
September 23, 2022
By Kevin Prise , PGATOUR.COM
Max Homa sinks birdie putt on No. 17 at Presidents Cup
CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Max Homa on the golf course is akin to an airboat on the Louisiana Bayou.
The five-time PGA TOUR winner seems to glide with aspirational efficiency. Each movement exudes a consistent level of energy. No singular situation appears more crucial than the last, even on the stage of his maiden Presidents Cup appearance at Quail Hollow Club.
Until the final holes of Friday Four-ball, that is.
Homa and partner Billy Horschel had surrendered a 2-up lead to Corey Conners and Taylor Pendrith, and the match was tied on the 17th green. The Internationals had mounted a comeback on Friday’s final nine, tying the day’s final three matches as they tried to crawl back into contention. The first two matches ended in ties and it was up to the United States’ final pairing to completely quash this uprising.
It wouldn’t be easy, however, after Pendrith hit his approach on 17 to 13 feet. But after his birdie putt horseshoed around the hole, the stage was set for Homa ensure the Internationals could do no better than another tie.
Homa buried it, unleashing a raw fist pump. Then, after Pendrith made a closing birdie on the stout par-4 18th to force Homa’s hand, the 31-year-old Californian responded with a birdie from 11 feet to win the match.
He stared intently as his ball slowly rolled on Quail Hollow’s glassy green, then pumped his fist three times, let out a roar and turned to violently chest Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa in the most raucous celebration of the United States’ rout in the making.
Homa practically glided into the interview room, putter still in his hand. The United States has gotten predictable success from two of its stalwart teams, with Jordan Spieth/Justin Thomas and Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele, both going 2-0-0, but Homa, playing his first Presidents Cup at the age of 31, has also played a crucial role in the U.S. Team’s 8-2 lead.
“The atmosphere out there is insane,” Homa said. “I was nervous as could be over that putt (on 18), but it was fun. I was telling my wife, when we talk about things money can’t buy, money cannot buy that feeling. That was something I will remember forever, and I will tell anybody who ever wants to hear about it how that felt.”
“My adrenaline’s way higher (in the Presidents Cup) … so I have to manage that a bit better.”
The U.S. Team was heavily favored into the 14th Presidents Cup and set an early tone with a 4-1 advantage in Thursday Foursomes, in its bid to improve to 8-0 on home soil in the biennial competition against the International Team.
Spieth/Thomas and Cantlay/Schauffele earned Friday’s first two points, ending their matches before the 18th hole. PGA TOUR Player of the Year Scottie Scheffler and his good friend Sam Burns then staved off the Internationals to salvage a tie, as did Cameron Young and Kevin Kisner. All eyes turned to Homa and fellow rookie Billy Horschel against the pair of Canadians.
Horschel was so nervous into his Presidents Cup debut match that he “felt like I had to throw up for three hours straight” prior to teeing it up. The high-wattage Florida Gator delivered a series of pivotal putts throughout the day, including a 12-foot birdie to tie the par-5 16th hole, setting the stage for Homa’s late heroics.
“It was the most nervous I’ve been before any round of golf in my entire life,” Horschel said. “I think it’s just the anticipation of wanting to be on these teams for so many years and missing out and finally making one.
“When I finally started warming up, that feeling finally went away. It lived up to everything that I expected. To see this guy right here (Homa) perform at the end was truly special.”
Homa’s progression over the last few years has been nothing short of special. The same player who lost his PGA TOUR card twice, making just two cuts in 2017, and once describing his slump as “hitting rock bottom and finding a shovel,” is now a budding American hero.
He has delivered an 18th-hole victory in each of his first two Presidents Cup matches – pairing with Tony Finau for a 1-up win over Pendrith and Mito Pereira in Thursday Foursomes – and will assume the anchor position once again Saturday morning, alongside Finau in a Foursomes match against Si Woo Kim and Cam Davis.
This clutch performance comes just days after he authored final-hole heroics across the country, chipping in on the Fortinet Championship’s final hole to win the TOUR’s season-opening event. It was his fifth TOUR win in the last three-and-a-half years, a run that began with his 2019 Wells Fargo Championship win here at Quail Hollow Club.
Back then, he was just a year removed from playing in the Korn Ferry Tour Finals to regain his TOUR card and questioned whether he could hang with the likes of Rory McIlroy, who played alongside him in Saturday’s second-to-last group.
“I was driving to the course, nervous as can be,” Homa described that Saturday at Quail Hollow in 2019. “Playing with Rory, who the heck am I? It’s his birthday, he’s probably going to lap me. I’m freaking out, right?
Now Homa finds himself in the company of World Golf Hall of Famers and major champions in the U.S. team room, and he’s executing crucial shots knowing their eyes are on him.
“It was an unreal day,” said Homa after teaming with Finau for Thursday’s Foursomes victory. “I was giddy all week, and then today I was on a million. It was an awesome scene. … It makes us feel alive.”