NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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How did Presidents Cup rookie Max Homa make his first U.S. team since the 2013 Walker Cup? The former Cal Bear took the scenic route, transforming from one of the worst players on the PGA Tour to one of the most consistent.
After being a first-team All-American his senior year – which included an individual NCAA and Pac-12 Championship title while also breaking the course record at Los Angeles Country Club’s North Course – Homa toiled in obscurity. He quickly earned his PGA Tour card through what was then the Web.com Tour (now the Korn Ferry Tour) in 2014, lost it the following season, regained it through Web.com Finals in 2016, lost it with particularly abysmal play in 2017, and then made it back to the tour through Web.com Finals once again in 2018.
In the darkness of that poor 2016-17 season, Homa earned only three FedEx Cup points and $18,008 in 17 starts. Had he played enough rounds to qualify for the stat, Homa would have ranked second-to-last in strokes gained total. With the exception of putting, every major statistical category showed that he was nowhere remotely close to being an average player on the PGA Tour.
Homa, a passionate Los Angeles sports fan, remembers seeing a quote back then, one that his idol Kobe Bryant had taped inside his locker. It was the well-known parable of the stonecutter who struck his boulder 100 times with not even the smallest dent to show for his efforts. On the 101st strike, the boulder explodes apart. The premise is that a wise man knows it wasn’t the 101st blow that made the difference; it was the cumulative effect of every strike that came before it.
“I was like, ‘This is me right now,’” Homa said on the "No Laying Up" podcast in 2019. “This is how I’m going to leave my mark on this game. This is how I’m getting back.”
Slowly, Homa grinded. In the 2018-19 season, he dramatically improved his driver play, ranking No. 58 in strokes gained off the tee. Although his short game was decidedly in the bottom half of the tour membership, he won his first event at the Wells Fargo Championship and comfortably kept his card. In 2019-20, he rose 26 spots in strokes gained overall, laying the foundation for what would transpire the past two seasons as Homa has since won three times, notched 27 top-25 finishes and missed only 12 cuts in 52 starts.
Homa is now No. 20 in the world, fresh off a fifth-place finish in the Tour Championship. He ranked in the top 60 of all six major strokes gained categories last season, including being No. 13 in strokes gained total.
There is an equipment lesson in Homa’s arduous climb. Through all of the hard years and swing changes, Homa has been ardently loyal to Titleist. He could have easily started to become desperate for answers by sifting through different brands, but Homa dug it out of the dirt.
He now plays the new TSR3 driver at 10 degrees of loft, as well as the TSR3 3-wood at 16.5 degrees and TSR2 7-wood at 21 degrees. He has rotated an 818H2 hybrid or U500 utility iron into his bag depending on course setup.
Interestingly, Homa dabbles in multiple models for his irons. He has a T100S 4-iron, a T100 5-iron and 620MB’s from 6-iron through 9-iron. With wedges, Homa relies on SM9’s that come in 46, 50, 56 and 60 degrees of loft. His putter is a Scotty Cameron Phantom X 5.5 Prototype.
Homa hasn’t been afraid to change models within Titleist’s offerings, but there is something to be said for the continuity of playing similar equipment over a long period of time.
The patience has paid off. Homa earned his Presidents Cup ticket the hard way.