[PHOTO: Getty Images]
American Max Homa grew up watching the PGA Tour at Riviera Country Club and lived a dream when he won the 2021 Genesis Invitational, a tournament hosted by Tiger Woods. After losing his PGA Tour card twice early in his career, Homa has established himself as one of the newest stars and his recent win at the Farmers Insurance Open propelled the 32-year-old as one of the favourites at this week’s $US20 million Genesis Invitational where Woods will make a first tour appearance since July. Homa duly marked the occasion by taking the early lead…
Everybody calls me the social media guy. I still think I’m a pretty darn good golfer. Obviously, results helped me kind of build that foundation. I do like to say dumb things and make dumb jokes and observe weird stuff and tweet about it like a kid. But when I work, when I practise, when I play tournaments, this is what I love.
I think I have a great perspective towards my love for this game. I’ve kind of seen all of it. I remind myself most days too when I’m getting nervous coming down the stretch or things are getting wobbly. I remind myself I’ve seen the darkness of this game, enjoy this and enjoy the beauty of it. When people are chanting my name, these are things I could never have imagined.
I’ve always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder and grew up as a huge Kobe Bryant fan. He seemed to play basketball like that and I’ve always loved trying to be like him. So when I get into certain moments, I feel like all of it combined eases me a bit and enables me to compete at the highest level.
What I learned from Kobe’s teachings and watching him work at his craft back in the day is he puts in all these hours behind the scenes so that when he’s on camera doing his thing, he can just let it happen. I try to take that with me and I try to embrace the craziness and the pressure and all of that because that’s what I saw him do and I was enamored by that.
I remember when I won my first golf tournament on the PGA Tour, the Wells Fargo Championship in 2019, I was playing with Rory McIlroy in the third round and I told myself he’s never seen what I’ve seen, he does not know the same kind of pressure I know. I could be making this up, but either way, it helped me beat him. It’s the little things like that I’ve leaned into. I think everybody out here has got their own chip, everyone out here has got their own story, everyone out here has their own struggles and I’ve had my own challenges as well in my early years as a professional golfer.
I think I do a good job when I’m behind of “one shot at a time” and knowing it’s a marathon. Fortunately I’ve been in the position and succeeded a couple times on the Korn Ferry Tour previously. I think I was seven behind and won a tournament in Chicago. I remembered that experience of just going out to play golf and see what happens.
I’ve now enjoyed a few come-from-behind wins, including the recent one at the Farmers Insurance Open. I think a lot of it was down to a tonne of patience and a lot of confidence. Winning takes a lot of luck too, but I think a lot of patience and knowing that, especially during final rounds, 18 holes is a marathon and a lot of stuff can happen.
The confidence is becoming steadier too. I’ve been working with a sports psychologist who has opened my eyes to a lot of things, like making a plan each day mentally. I didn’t go into a single round at Torrey Pines thinking about a technical goal or a statistical goal, it was going out to put in place what I’ve been working on and I did a great job of it.
It’s a beautiful game. Sometimes you’re just one good swing thought away from being good again. It took a little bit of time and a lot of great people in my life for me to stack up the wins. My wife Lacey, my caddie Joe Greiner, people who have kind of been there through the ugly. I don’t know if I could have told you all those years ago I was going to win six PGA Tour events, but that’s what I was dreaming of. A lot of hard work goes into that and I’m very proud of myself and proud of my team.
When I won the Genesis Invitational in 2021, I couldn’t understand why it broke me down so much at the end of the tournament. There were no fans on site, my friends weren’t there and my family wasn’t there. All the wins kind of start with me and my caddie, it’s just us two out there and there’s a bunch of people in my life right after that you enjoy them with and they are part of a win.
I guess I learned what professional golf was at Riv. That’s where I watched all my favourite players, met Payne Stewart there, saw Tiger Woods for the first time there, would watch all like my favourite golfers come through. And that’s where I always wanted to play. I didn’t even get to play the golf course till my junior year of college for national championships. So, it was just a very special golf course to me.
And the fun of that, though, is when you get it done, it feels even bigger and you’re even more proud to win a championship against an amazing field, and on the first golf course I ever went to watch golf. It was kind of a fairytale for me.
It’s really cool to now have friendship with Tiger. I understand a lot of people think it’s corny and dorky to kind of gush in a way over another athlete, especially the one they compete against but I don’t think there’s been an athlete who’s done as much for their sport as Tiger has. A lot of us growing up always pictured making a putt to win the Masters, US Open, the tournament at Riviera, but you also hit them to beat Tiger, that was the guy. That’s what we grew up hoping for was a chance to go toe to toe with the guy. So, it’s been cool to have a relationship with him.
I’m really glad he’s back [this week]. I think we’re privileged any time he plays now. It’s really awesome he’s playing a tour event, especially his event. I’m stoked to see him back out there. He’s always remarkable. You never know what he’s going to do. So it will be fun to watch him play some golf.
Max Homa is a six-time PGA Tour winner and you can watch him and the PGA Tour on Fox Sports Australia and Kayo.