‘It is crazy’: Max Homa caps big year fielding compliments from idol Tiger Woods

Max Homa and Tiger Woods at the Open Championship earlier this year.

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Much has changed for Max Homa over the past five years, both on and off the golf course.

On the course, the former standout and 2013 NCAA Individual champion at the University of California went from a potential bust as a pro, who made just two cuts in 17 starts in 2017 to a five-time winner on the PGA Tour ranked No. 16 in the world. 

Off the course — well, take Wednesday, for example, which was both his third wedding anniversary with his wife Lacey and also the one-month birthday of the couple’s newborn son, Cam.

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“I’d have been shocked wild if that was like — that was my reminder,” Homa joked when the significance of the day was brought up at his pre-tournament press conference ahead of the Hero World Challenge. “Parenthood is a different lifestyle as I’m sure many of you know.

“Didn’t expect it to be this kind of difficult. I feel guilty being in beautiful Bahamas while my wife’s grinding changing diapers, but here I am so might as well play well.”

That sense of humor has helped cement Homa as one of the top social media savants on the PGA Tour, evidenced by finishing only behind this week’s host, Tiger Woods, and Justin Thomas in last year’s PIP MVP Index, which among things rates players’ social-media reach.

Even after Homa collected his first PGA Tour win, Twitter was what people best knew Homa for. 

That’s no longer the case.

Homa won four times in the past two years. In September, he defended his Fortinet Championship title, making it two straight seasons he was the PGA Tour’s first winner of the year.

Earlier this summer, he was notable enough to get paired with U.S. Open winner Matt Fitzpatrick and Homa’s idol, Tiger Woods, in the first two rounds of this summer’s Open Championship, where it was widely assumed Woods would at some point have some sort of emotional swan song to the Old Course at St. Andrews.

That moment came in the second round on 18, and Homa, despite missing his only cut at a major in 2022, had a front-row seat for one of the most memorable scenes of the golf year.

Now, Home is playing in Woods’ own tournament. The 20-player field list for the Hero World Challenge is exclusive. At No. 31, Kevin Kisner is the lowest-ranked player.

It was a compliment for Homa to get the Hero nod from Woods, and it’s an even bigger one for the 15-time major winner to be saying good things about Homa’s swing on camera, as he did during Tuesday’s Hero Shot event.

“I like his move,” Woods can be heard saying to Justin Thomas as Homa was hitting shots. 

There is perhaps no one Homa wants to hear positive things about his game from more than Woods.

“I didn’t hear that, but it is crazy,” Homa said of the exchange. “At the Open Championship when we played, he came up to me on, like, the 4th hole and said my swing looked great and I was hitting it really well. That was cool to hear.

“Anytime you’re kind of around Tiger, especially since I’ve turned pro, it’s not like he’s played a ton of full seasons at least when I was actually on Tour as I’ve bounced back and forth so many times, so anytime he’s around it definitely heightens the excitement of an event. To hear a guy that, you know, I look up to and kind of play golf, because he made it cool, say something nice about me is great. And it was nice to beat him in the wedge thing yesterday, that felt really good.”

Now that Woods is out of the field this week, Homa is one of the big draws, along with Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler and others. Only the top names in the sport are in the Bahamas this week.

Homa was asked if he felt like he belonged at a tournament like the Hero, or was he still feeling imposter syndrome. 

He said he already feels like he’s made it.

“I just played the Presidents Cup, so I would say that I feel quite comfortable here,” Homa said with the cheekiness golf fans have come to expect from him. 

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At the Presidents Cup, Homa impressed, going 4-0, including the memorable fist pump to seal a 1-up win with Billy Horschel in Friday’s last four-ball match. He even took down the International team’s breakout star, Tom Kim, on Sunday in what was a matchup of each team’s energizer bunny.

Homa admitted it’s still weird to be around Woods, a player he used to watch at this very event when was held in the L.A. area where Homa grew up. But in terms of this being the bar to make him feel like he was at home among the world’s best? That was taken care of at Quail Hollow.

“It’s just cool to be able to play an event that is obviously incredibly exclusive. You have to have had a great year, I guess couple years world ranking-wise to be here, and I feel it’s like a nice reward.

“It’s cool, but I wouldn’t say that getting into this event now makes me feel like I’ve made it just because of the Presidents Cup and whatnot.”

For the longest time, Homa was known as the Tour’s funny guy, better known for his social-media game than his golf game. If the Presidents Cup was his coming-out party, this week at the Hero he gets to enjoy the fruits of the labor that got him here.

He still has places to improve on, like the fact he’s never finished better than tied for 13th in a major.

“It just has to be partly mental,” Homa said. “I’ve played quite well in big events. The invitationals out here I’ve played really well in. So I don’t think that it’s too physical, I just think that either my preparation or maybe my kind of anxiety or excitement for the majors is holding me back, but that’s just something I’m going to have to keep learning.”

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Homa had another strong finish last week with the release of the PIP results. The PIP is supposed to reflect a player’s impact across a variety of different Q-rating-style metrics. The top 20 players in the rankings must play each of the PGA Tour’s elevated events this season, plus three more.

Homa does well in the current formula due to his social-media savvy, but his OWGR ranking (16) is just two spots higher than his PIP ranking (14) now.

“I always thought I was significantly more popular than I was good at golf, so it feels nice that those things are aligning,” he said.

But not wanting diminish his funnyman brand, there was still something he could poke fun at.

“I’m frustrated I lost to Kisner, I’m not quite sure how that happened,” Homa said of the PIP results. “Played better than him, carried him at the QBE last year, so not sure how I lost to him, so that was disappointing. Just back to the drawing board, got to figure out more ways to impact the golfing world.”

Jack Hirsh

Golf.com Editor

Jack Hirsh is an assistant editor at GOLF. A Pennsylvania native, Jack is 2020 graduate of Penn State University, earning degrees in broadcast journalism and political science. He was captain of his high school golf team and still *tries* to remain competitive in local amateurs. Before joining GOLF, Jack spent two years working at a TV station in Bend, Oregon, primarily as Multimedia Journalist/reporter, but also producing, anchoring and even presenting the weather. He can be reached at jack.hirsh@golf.com.