How Max Homa pulled off that tree escape during the Genesis playoff

Golf ball

Max Homa's ball on Sunday on the 10th hole at Riviera Country Club.

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Max Homa walked up to his ball after his tee shot on the first hole of Sunday’s playoff at the Genesis Invitational and immediately stood over it. To his and his ball’s left on the 315-yard, par-4 10th hole at Riviera Country Club, 70 feet away, was the hole. To his ball’s right, a few inches away, less than the size of an iron head, was a tree. Homa took an imaginary swing with just his arms.    

Which, for a while at least, looked like his only swing. 

“Oh right up against the tree by the looks of things,” analyst Frank Nobilo said during CBS’ broadcast on Sunday. 

“Absolutely snookered,” analyst Nick Faldo said. “Oh my goodness. Holy smokes.” 

“Can he get a club on it?” Nobilo said.

“Can he do anything, Frank?” Faldo said. 

For the next 112 seconds, Homa did many things. Then one thing. 

Homa, after his initial assessment, walked up to the green, about 55 feet away, walked a few steps off and tossed away some debris. This would be where he’d try to land his ball. He walked back to the green, then walked back to his ball and took another faux swing before being handed his 50-degree wedge from his caddie, Joe Greiner. 

With the tree impeding a traditional, straight-on shot, Homa would stand at an angle slightly behind and left of the tree, turn the toe of his club inward, or hood it, hook his chip and let it spin left.

“I think what he can try and do is hood a sand wedge and maybe try and hook it out toward the front of the green or maybe just right of the green from this angle and then go from there,” analyst Trevor Immelman said on the broadcast. “There’s no way he can put any kind of normal golf swing on this.”

Homa took a practice swing with the wedge, then another. He moved behind the ball, and  Greiner walked up to where it might land. Homa took another imaginary swing, then he and Greiner talked. The shot was settled.  

“I’m going to try to pull it over,” Homa said.  

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” Greiner said. 

Yeah.

Homa, after two more practice swings and two looks up, chipped it 15 yards, it kicked to the left and rolled to within 11 feet. Homa smiled at Greiner, grabbed his putter and took off its head cover.  

“What a cool shot,” Immelman said.  

“A heck of a shot there,” Nobilo said. “Tremendous from Homa.”

“Obviously had a weird looking shot, but I had a shot, which is cool,” Homa said afterward. “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, because 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.”

Two strokes and about a half-hour before his chip, Homa had missed a 3-foot putt on 18 that would have given him a near-insurmountable lead, and he and Tony Finau would go to the playoff. Five strokes and about 15 minutes after his chip, Homa won. He would miss his birdie putt on 10, but parred the second hole of the playoff, while Finau bogeyed it. 

“Ten’s a crazy hole,” Homa said. “Talor Gooch and I were talking about it on 11 today during the regulation round. A lot of people don’t like it; I love it. I think golf could use a little chaos at times. It’s probably not a perfect hole, but it’s fun; a lot can go on. You kind of aim at these trees and kind of see what happens.”

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Nick Piastowski

Golf.com Editor