Monday Finish: Ryder Cup pairings, one poor tee shot, Max Homa’s strut
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where we’re puffing out our chests and starting the week 1 up.
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Max Homa’s strut.
It’s Monday of Ryder Cup week, which means that in the golf world, this is a Monday that’s more about the start of something than the finish. Also, the mobile MF headquarters is currently aboard a train to Milwaukee (the closest metro area to Whistling Straits), so let’s keep this week’s edition snappy.
This train was delayed, in fact, which meant I was able to dial into the post-round press conference of one John Maxwell Homa, who had just finished off his third PGA Tour victory at the Fortinet Championship. The win marked a significant moment in Homa’s career, because three wins is a big deal. But one thing that made Homa’s post-round comments intriguing is the fact that the Fortinet was Homa’s first start since stepping away from co-hosting a podcast, Get A Grip, with broadcaster Shane Bacon.
It’s not the podcast decision itself that was most interesting, but what it represented: a golfer who wants to plunge entirely into his craft, optimizing for on-course performance.
“Time management,” Homa said when asked about the decision. “I feel like outside of my family, things that make me the happiest is this, is playing great golf, and I felt like if I was going to spill my guts — as I enjoy doing — to the small masses every week, I might be better off spending that time practicing or working out or working on my own head.
“I really enjoy doing it, I love Shane Bacon, I love working with him, he’s awesome and he made it so easy, but at some point I felt like it was not doing me any favors having to regurgitate all the bad things that happen because, you know, I could have a great year and win one time. So you lose the other 20-something odd times. I felt like it wasn’t healthy for me.”
In an era where every celebrity is leaning into the media world, there’s something refreshing about Homa’s outlook here. And ironically, the very characteristics that make him a great podcast interview — openness, vulnerability, self-awareness — may occasionally hold him back on the actual course.
“I think being yourself is important,” Homa said. I just don’t think it’s emotionally smart to be open with everyone, if that makes sense.”
It does. Instead, Homa is working on positive thoughts and creating confidence. It worked this week.
“I’ve been seeing it a lot more lately as far as how, walking around with your chest out and believing that and recanting that to yourself, how that helps,” he said. “In my opinion, that’s what I need to work on more than anything. I could go practice all day long, but if I don’t start believing in myself and believing that I belong with all the guys at the Ryder Cup this next week, then I’m doing myself a disservice.”
Who won what?
Max Homa won the Fortinet Championship, which still looks an awful lot like “Fortnite” to me.
Jin Young Ko won a rain-shortened Cambria Portland Classic, storming her way to a four-shot 54-hole victory, her ninth on tour, reminding golf fans why she’s been the game’s most consistent winner over that stretch.
Ko also spent her Pacific Northwest downtime appropriately: “I went to the Columbia mall. So I bought a lot of things. Like, inside this one were a lot of great jackets or hiking shoes and it was fun,” Ko said after her round.
World No. 772 Kristoffer Broberg won the Dutch Open, his first European Tour title since 2015. He broke down post-round, acknowledging the journey he’s been on. “This win means a lot,” he said. “It’s been six years of hell.”
So close, and yet…
Maverick McNealy held a share of the 54-hole lead at Silverado, and he got out to a hot start on Sunday with birdies at 5, 7 and 9 to open up a gap. Even after Homa’s heroics, McNealy was still very much in contention as he stood on the 17th tee, where he took iron — and then made a particularly strange swing.
“Caught it off the heel and it caught the last branch of the tree,” he explained later.
Eek! I’m not saying he hit a cold shank — this didn’t start quite violently right enough — but I am saying that pressure does incredible things to people.
McNealy rebounded from his 17th-hole double about as well as he could have, pouring in a 30-footer for eagle at No. 18. He, like Homa, now sits in his career highest world ranking (No. 76). And there’s no shame in a final-round bogey-free 68 with the lead. He just wishes it was double bogey-free, too.
In Portland, Australian Su Oh and South Korean Jeongeun Lee tied for second at seven under par, surviving the Oregon Golf Club’s severe test on a week where the cut line crept up to six over.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
Jon Rahm, under the weather.
The only Ryder Cupper in action this week was world No. 1 Jon Rahm, who missed the cut at Silverado after fending off a mid-week stomach virus. He didn’t hold back in his description:
“It’s not like I couldn’t have played the pro-am, but I would have had too many unnecessary stops, let’s just say it that way,” Rahm said. “I would have taken a long time to play and that would have delayed everybody else quite a bit.”
We get the idea. Hard to imagine Rahm will be any worse for wear by the time we get to play this coming Friday, though.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Phil the thrill.
This week, we got Full Phil.
Mickelson dished out a couple Ryder Cup stories. He coached up a volunteer. He hit driver off the deck — out of the woods. And he worked his way into contention with a Saturday 67 to begin the final round inside the top 10.
But on Sunday Mickelson posted the second-highest round of the day, three-over 75, to fade to T36. He didn’t speak to reporters afterwards, which was unsurprising because of his poor play combined with his schedule: Mickelson has a plane to catch.
“I’ll go home, pick up Amy, grab some clothes Sunday night. We’ll leave Monday morning,” Mickelson explained. Destination Wisconsin. We’re eager for whatever Captain Phil has up his sleeve.
Three things to watch this week.
Several of the week’s burning questions come from the American side. Who will Bryson DeChambeau play with? Who will Brooks Koepka play with? Are we still in a strict four-man pod system? And if so, who’s in it together?
Two teams — Thomas/Spieth and Schauffele/Cantlay — seem like locks for at least three sessions each. If you’re bullish on the American side’s chances, that’s where you’ll win. But how does the rest of the team shape up?
One potential version of the U.S. team, which is guaranteed to be at least somewhat wrong:
2. Team Europe’s heart and soul.
Does Ian Poulter remain the face of the European Ryder Cup team? These team competitions are always a fascinating mix of vets and rookies, but Europe is heavy on experience and I’m fascinated to watch the dynamic play out.
3. Course setup.
We’ve heard reports that Whistling Straits won’t be baring all its teeth, but just how birdie-heavy will Captain Stricker want it? His team is younger, longer and — on paper — better than the Europeans. As we’ve seen, that doesn’t guarantee much of anything. That’s why we watch.
See you all week!