AUGUSTA, Ga. — Max Homa claims it as his first golf-watching memory, and in that, he shares the experience with thousands of others.

On April 13, 1997, he was 6 years old and completely enthralled watching Tiger Woods wrap up his record-setting first Masters victory. Homa vividly remembers the champion’s drive far to the left on the 18th hole, and Woods jumping up and down just to see the green. Who else recalls Tiger’s playing partner that day? Homa does. It was Costantino Rocca.

“Every time I look back or see highlights from that event,” Homa said on Friday, “it’s funny, how 6 years old, you’re probably just starting to develop those memories, and that’s an awesome one to start with.”

That kid watching his TV in the Los Angeles suburbs couldn’t have fathomed where his talent for golf would take him 27 years later. In a single day of the weather-delayed Masters, Homa twice got to walk up Augusta National’s 18th hole on Friday alongside Woods, as not only a fellow competitor, but a man outplaying the five-time Masters champion.

Clearly inspired, Homa finished off an opening five-under-par 67 on Friday morning, then ground out a 71 in the afternoon to be in a three-way tie for first at six under with Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler. Homa’s longtime hero produced his own impressive scrambling over 23 holes in one day to make his 24th consecutive Masters cut with scores of 73-72.

Homa beamed in the Augusta interview room, and he seemed equally enamored of playing with Woods as he was about potentially his best chance to win his first major.

“It was awesome. It really is a dream to get to play with him here,” Homa said. “I’ve been saying, I always wanted to just watch him hit iron shots around here, and I was right up next to him. It was really cool. His short game was so good. I don’t think I can explain how good some of the chip shots he hit today were.

“He’s special. We had a really quick turnaround [between rounds], and if I was feeling tired and awful, I imagine he was feeling even worse.”

Homa, 33, is 15 years Woods’ junior, so he’s spent far more years watching Woods on TV than competing against him. He’s seen players through the years simply wilt under the pressure of playing with one of the game’s greatest, and yet he absolutely relished the grouping that also included an affable major winner in Jason Day.

Homa twisted his perception into believing that he had nothing to lose being in such company. He smiled in saying that when arriving on every tee, nearly all of the gallery is cheering for Woods. “And the crowd doesn’t know you’re there, which is pretty awesome.

“I think it’s easy,” he said, “just to stay in your own world and not get on your high horse at all. I think it kind of keeps you within yourself.”

The experience does have its out-of-body moments. On Friday afternoon, the threesome putted out on the 11th green and made its trek up the small hill to the 12th tee. “One of the coolest walks there is,” Homa says.

There are thousands of fans on the ground and in the grandstand there at the elbow of Amen Corner, and any time Woods arrives, he is greeted with an extended ovation. Homa—the golfer whose name was prominent on the massive leaderboard for all to see—stood there absorbing it all. He likely had to resist putting his own hands together.


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