When Max Homa’s ball rolled up right next to a tree on the first playoff hole at the Genesis Invitational, his chances at winning his hometown event looked bleak. To borrow a bit of golf terminology from yesteryear, he was stymied.
“Absolutely snookered,” analyst Nick Faldo noted.
Armchair Twitter pundits were similarly grim in assessing Homa’s predicament. Could he even get a club on the ball? Would he have to pitch out sideways? Was this the big break Tony Finau had been waiting for?
Beyond the question of being able to physically get the club on the ball, Riviera’s 10th green posed another significant obstacle. The short par-4’s putting surface is famously devilish, repelling balls like a bug zapper on a sticky summer night. Getting the ball anywhere near the hole with less-than-ideal contact is normally a fool’s errand. The message didn’t get to Homa.
“Honestly, I think I thought it was a little easier than other people,” he said.
Golf is often times a game of technique, but sometimes the game requires you to try something there isn’t a playbook for. Like playing a ball when it’s butted up against a tree.
“Sometimes when you get your creative brain working, you see it,” Homa said. “Joe didn’t see it, I saw it. I felt pretty good about putting it on the front right of the green. Just sometimes you have to trust your instincts and that’s kind of the fun of golf. It’s not always fairways and greens, you’ve got to be an artist at times.”
It’s easy around the greens to always take your highest-lofted club and try to throw the ball into the air. It’s flashy and full of style, and if you pull it off, it makes a hell of a tale at the 19th hole. But success around the greens requires creativity. It’s not often you see great wedge players play the same trajectory on any two shots around the green in any given round. Homa was able to tap into that creative mindset on his shot at the 10th.
Instead of going high into the air, Homa went low, bumping a lower-lofted wedge into the base of the hill to get the ball rolling. He played it to perfection.
“(I) took a 50 degree out and just hooded it as much as I could to get it started as left as I could with some tumble spin,” Homa said. “Going into that kikuyu uphill it all sticks, so I tried to land it as low into the hill as I could to get it rolling.”
Homa’s shot did exactly what it needed to — it got him back into position and gave him a look at birdie. And even though he missed the putt, there is much to learn about how he handled the situation.
Creativity around the greens is key, and if you want to be a successful wedge player, you should learn how to play many shots with varying trajectories. You never know when it might come in handy.
Ask Max Homa.
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