Conversations with Champions: Max Homa says 'everybody else calls me the social media guy. I still think I'm a pretty darn good golfer'

  • In Sports/Golf
  • 2023-01-30 19:16:54Z
  • By USA TODAY Sports - Golfweek

Max Homa stole the show on Friday at the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open, when he agreed to wear a mic and conduct a live talk-back during CBS's coverage of the third round.

Homa was all business Saturday, shooting a final-round 66 to rally from six shots down to earn his sixth PGA Tour victory. The California kid also won for the fourth time (on three different courses) in his home state.

Homa moved up three spots to No. 13 in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 7 in the Golfweek/Sagarin ranking.

The biggest thrill for Homa, though, might be that his infant son Cameron was greenside in the arms of his wife Lacey as he grinded out a come-from-behind win on the difficult South Course.

Here's everything Homa said on Saturday at Torrey Pines.

Question: What was that progression for you to get more comfortable here at Torrey?

Max Homa: Joe [Homa's caddie] did say exactly that. I think that Sunday I had shot 5 under in the final round and kind of finally figured out how to play the South Course. I've always played the North all right. But yeah, I think really what changed, part my golf game. I drive the ball really well now, that's a big advantage out here. You don't need to be in the short grass all the time, but you do need to be in it if you want to make birdies. The good news about this place is you're going to make so many pars and bogeys, you can get away with some loose ones, but in general I started getting more comfortable on certain tees. My iron game has always kind of been my staple, I guess, of what I'm most proud of in my game and it lends itself to that at this golf course. But yeah, getting comfy on South knowing that I don't need to ball out on North to have a chance here. As Joe said, once we get to the weekend or I guess Friday, the third round here, you know, it really does become a who's who at the top it seems like. You need to play very, very good golf two days in a row on a very hard golf course. So I thought that just what Joe said, that final round, that T-9 I think gave me some confidence, all right, I can play this golf course. I think I came in here, got a little psyched out just because of how difficult it could be and I started to realize that you don't need to hit every fairway. If I play my game, it actually does kind of suit me pretty well.

Q: What has changed mentally in the last two or three years about your belief in  yourself going from the social media guy to now one of the top players in the world?

MH: Everybody else calls me the social media guy. I still think I'm a pretty darn good golfer. Obviously results helped me kind of build that foundation. I do like to say dumb things and make dumb jokes and observe weird stuff and Tweet about it like, you know, a kid, I guess. But when I work, when I practice, when I play tournaments, I - this is what I love. I love what today was, it was incredible. So I don't think anything's changed too much. The confidence is becoming more steady. I've been working with a sports psychologist, Julie [Elion], who has,  I mean the last two months have opened my eyes to a lot of things. Having a plan each day mentally. I didn't go into a single round this week thinking about a technical goal or a statistical goal, it was I'm going to learn something today, I'm going to put in place what I've been working on, and today that's what I did. I did a great job of it. I told her last night, she asked if I wanted to talk, I said I'm all good because I thought our game plan yesterday was fantastic. I didn't play the greatest round of golf in the world, but I did everything that I wanted to do and put myself in a position to win a golf tournament.

2023 Farmers Insurance Open
2023 Farmers Insurance Open  

Max Homa reacts after clinching victory at the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Photo: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)

Q: L.A. guy, winning in San Diego, that hasn't happened a lot lately. Were you hearing anything from Padres fans while you were out there in the gallery?

MH: Only for the six days I've been here. (Laughs.) Yeah, I mean, it's all in good fun. They talk a very big game, which is just wild to me. They have all the pressure in the world on them this year. They've spent all the money that we had been spending, so if they don't win, then they can hear the same stuff they chirp back at us as Dodger fans. Yeah, it's nice, it's nice to win up and down the state of California and carry that L.A. logo both on my head and in my heart, me and Joe. It's nice. I don't talk back to anybody in the crowd about the Dodger-Padres thing but Joe does, so I enjoy listening to him talk his trash back to them.

Q: More serious golf question, the fact that you had experience now in coming back on the final day from deficits, what is there about your attitude, your thought process, what have you, that enables you to do that, that enables you to just let that roll off of you?

MH: I think I do a good job when I'm behind of "one shot at a time" and knowing that it's a marathon. Unfortunately I've been in the position, succeeded a couple times both through on the, well, when it was the, now the Korn Ferry Tour. I think I was 7 behind and I won one in Chicago. I just remembered that experience of just go play golf, see what happens, I'm going to need help, but it's hard to win golf tournaments I think what kind of always helps me. Sam [Ryder] is a phenomenal golfer, I'm sure he'll win a bunch out here, but he hadn't won yet. And it's hard to win, I know that. I've done it fortunately and I think when the old guys say experience is key, that's what they're talking about. I was lucky, Jon [Rahm] is probably just exhausted, he's made so many birdies and won so many golf tournaments. There's just so much going on that you can't really get ahead of yourself and I struggle with that at times, but when it's something like today or when you are behind chasing, it almost eases you into just one at a time and make everybody beat you and just play a good round of golf and see what happens. You can't force yourself to a 66 out here, you can't force yourself to 64. I'm sure Tony shooting 64 yesterday, Jon shot 66, I'm sure they would say the same thing. It was a round earlier, but they just played good golf and the ball went in the hole. Trust your game. Yesterday was a bigger day towards the end goal than today really was because I had it, I had my game, I played awesome, swung it great, just did not make anything. Held it together and shot 1 under and gave myself a chance today to go play the same round of golf and let the ball go in the hole. I think just that patience has been something I've leaned on when I'm behind and knowing just how darn hard it is to win out here. There's just a lot of great players and the golf courses are very hard. These final rounds are marathons, they seem to take forever.

Q: Does anything feel different about winning now that you have a child?

MH: A little bit. I mean, I've joked about it all afternoon, but I really, I want to win when he remembers it. However, when you have a kid as a professional athlete, you hear so many times the noise, oh, it's, you're not going to have the same time, this, that or whatever. But I've been so fortunate that my wife just seems to handle everything so easily. She had a horrendous birth, it did not go well. It was the scariest. … hard to say because it was an amazing day, get a new son, Cam. It was the worst day ever at the same time. I thought. …whatever. So she's just made everything so easy. And I still go practice, but I think I just manage my time a bit better.

I guess to your question, it's a little different because I feel like I've almost worked harder for this because I want to spend as much time as I possibly can helping her and being with Cam and doing all the cool things, catching some smiles here and there and getting screamed at. But I also want to be the best golfer on the planet and she knows that and she just does an amazing job letting me do both, especially when she's here on the road and when I'm home. So yeah, I work hard at two things now, so it feels a little bit more difficult but it's a million times more rewarding. To see them behind the 18th green knowing I was probably about to win a golf tournament was cool. Like I say, he has no idea what I did, but I will tell him this story ad nauseam and he will probably think I'm the worst for it, but this will be my corny dad story that I will tell every Thanksgiving or something.

Q: With you being in the moment, have you changed a diaper since walking off the course and now or is that a predicted thing for later?

MH: It will happen. The sun will come up tomorrow and my son will need a diaper change many times before that. So I will be changing diapers, I will enjoy every second of it as I always do. It's going to feel even better than normal. If he screams at me, I will just be smiling ear to ear. These tournaments are hard, man, but it puts you in the best mood ever when you come out on top. He can poop away and I'll just be here for him.

Q: Compared to other six wins, lost your card twice and earned your card back on the Korn Ferry Tour. Are there anyways you feel like that has been unique to your advantage or perspective to kind of compete at this level?

MH: Yeah, I think I have a great perspective towards my love for this game. I've seen kind of all of it. I remind myself most days too when I'm getting nervous coming down the stretch or things are getting wobbly, like today 12, or 13, 14, 15. I just kind of always remind myself you've seen the darkness of this game, enjoy this, enjoy the beauty of it. People chanting my name, things I could never have imagined. So I do think so. I think that it's calming. And I've always had a bit of a chip on my shoulder, just grew up a huge Kobe fan. He just seemed to play basketball like that and I've always loved trying to play golf like that and work at it like that. So when I get in these moments, I feel like all of it combined eases me a bit. I remember when I won my first golf tournament on the PGA Tour, the Wells Fargo in '19, I was going to play golf with Rory McIlroy on Saturday and I just told myself he's never seen what I've seen, he does not know the same kind of pressure I know, I guess. I could be making this up, but either way it helped me beat him. But yeah, it's the little things like that. I think everybody out here's got their own chip, everyone out here's got their own story, everyone out here has their own struggles. They look a little bit different. We all handle it how we handle it. But yeah, I can only tell you what's going on in my head and that's how I've kind of tried to use it.

2023 Farmers Insurance Open
2023 Farmers Insurance Open  

Max Homa hits his tee shot on the 16th hole during the final round of the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego. (Photo: Ray Acevedo-USA TODAY Sports)

Q: Those four straight birdies in Portland, do those still live on? Are they still something that comes up in your head?

MH: It's funny, I think about it less and less, but I should probably think about it more and more. Yeah, that's kind of what I mean about pressure. Like sitting there on the 15th hole and I didn't know I needed to but I figured I needed to birdie the last four just to have a chance to go into the playoff. I believe I would be out here anyways, I believe I'd have six wins anyways, I believe that I would have figured it out, but I'm glad - I'm glad I made those four birdies, I'll say that.

Q: This week it was a silly thing for Groundhog Day, but it was a fun clip where we asked you if there was a day you'd like to re-live over and over. … and you also made the point to mention you want to have more of those memories, want to create more days you would like to live over and over. What's your reaction with that mentality that you have?

MH: Oh, man, that's a great question. I guess I feel very thankful that I'm not really sure which day. I've had a lot of great days both on the golf course and off. I'm glad to say I do not know how to answer that question today.

Q: What do you think it is that kind of allowed you at that point have that response in terms of not wanting to really dwell on a date too much in the past?

MH: Yeah, I guess everyone, you know, you're just hopeful. I hope that I haven't seen my best day yet, my favorite day yet. I'm sure there will be many other great, great days. Today feels like the best day ever. I'm hoping that tomorrow feels better. I'll say that maybe I'll be looking forward to the first time my son thinks he's going to beat me and I drop a putt on 18 to beat him and show him what's up. That will probably be a day I'm looking forward to. But I guess it's just hope. I think all of us kind of have that, you just hope for the best and stay the course.

Q: Have you always had that, just that natural hope?

MH: I think all of us kind of do. There's some grumpy people, but if you're playing golf, you better be an eternal optimist.

Q: I know you're a big Kobe fan, so when you make that putt on 16 for the birdie, is there a little Kobe in you that says let's go get it. Has anything changed mentally for you or do you stay even keeled at that moment?

MH: I actually thought about it, him a little bit throughout the day. This is the golf tournament where we found out he had passed away tragically, so this place has a weird, I have a weird feeling towards it. I love it and it has like a weird sadness to it. I mean, I think about Kobe Bryant a lot, I think a lot of athletes do. But yeah, little moments. It's not the putt on 16 really, it was the putt on 13, the second one, and the second one on 15. That just tenacity that everyone around you might be oohing and ahhing and you know what's about to happen and you kind of just stand up there and say I'm going to show you what guts are right now and I'm going to show you that I trust what I've been doing. What I learned from Kobe Bryant's teachings and watching him, you know, work at his craft back in the day is he puts in all these hours behind the scenes so that when he's on camera doing his thing, he can just let it happen. So I try to take that with me and I try to embrace the craziness and the pressure and all of that because that's what I saw him do and I was enamored by that.

Q: All the success you've had in California, how much have you circled the U.S. Open in L.A. this year?

MH: A lot less than other people have for me. I've circled the Masters as the next major. But yeah, it will be great. I have great memories there, won the Pac-12s there. But I think I'm going to let a lot of people decide that that's going to be a big opportunity for me. I'd like to just keep playing great golf and I would hope that all of them could be a good opportunity for me. But it will be fun just like today was to play in front of my friends and family. I'll hear more Dodgers fans up there than Padres, so that will be a nice change from this week. But yeah, it's so hard to look ahead. Right now if you told me to go start the U.S. Open tomorrow in L.A., I'd feel really, really good, but you never know what swing stuff you're going to be going through. I'd like to say I'm going to feel just like I do right now, but I'm just going to keep working at it and when I get there I'll be able to kind of look around and appreciate that I have great history there.

Q: Is there a hole that you made birdie when your son was there?

MH: The first one was, was it yesterday? Yesterday I birdied 18 and Joe said, "About time you birdied one for Cam." I think I birdied 6 a couple days ago, but it didn't feel like it counted to Joe, so we'll let 18 yesterday be the one that counts.

Q: Just before we let you go, you wore the earpiece yesterday for one hole during the CBS broadcast. Sounds like it was successful, everybody seemed to have a good time, you included. Do you think or have you had any feedback from other players? Do you think now that you've gone on to win the tournament that there will be, that it will encourage others to perhaps experiment with that, try it?

MH: Hopefully. We've been working on this with [Andy] Pazder and CBS and everybody for like two months. I'm very excited about the idea. I'm sure if we could Tweet things how other people want to do it, how other players want to do it. If they don't want to do it I'll keep doing it, it didn't bother me. I thought it was great for the fans to look into, push that envelope for the fans. Not just myself, but the Tour seems to be, CBS, NBC, all these broadcasting streams seem to be wanting to add something to the viewing experience. But it was great. It was cool to win after doing it. You always hear people say, oh, Tiger would never do this, Rahm would never do this, all they care about is winning. I get that, but you can do both. That was definitely nice to win doing that yesterday. It was 20 minutes, it was not invasive. I even thought if you don't want to do the interview with the people in the booth, they could just be in your ear or in your caddie's ear so they could hear us really clearly. So there's definitely little things we could do here or there. I'm hoping other players would want to do it. I haven't heard yet. We were coming off the third round into the fourth, we don't really talk about too much of that stuff yet. But hopefully other players want to do it. I'm sure there's some interest in this whether I won or didn't. Hopefully we can kind of keep pushing that or tweak it, just anything to help golf kind of gain some attraction to all the viewers hopefully a little bit younger than our typical audience, I think that's what the goal is.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek


More Related News

Hideki Matsuyama, Will Zalatoris WD during final day of pool play at WGC-Dell Match Play
Hideki Matsuyama, Will Zalatoris WD during final day of pool play at WGC-Dell Match Play

For Matsuyama, it's just another bump along an injury-plagued 18 months.

Hideki Matsuyama withdraws, allowing Max Homa to advance to Round of 16
Hideki Matsuyama withdraws, allowing Max Homa to advance to Round of 16

Hideki Matsuyama withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play prior to the start of his third-round match with a neck injury.

Round 2 highlights from WGC-Dell Match Play
Round 2 highlights from WGC-Dell Match Play

In Round 2 of the 2023 World Golf Championships - Dell Technologies Match Play, Max Homa, Rory McIlroy, and Scottie Scheffler were among those to win their matches.

2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Five matches worth watching on Thursday
2023 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play: Five matches worth watching on Thursday

Keep an eye on these matches as pool play heats up at the WGC-Match Play.

How should Max Homa prepare for buddy Kevin Kisner at the WGC-Dell Match Play?
How should Max Homa prepare for buddy Kevin Kisner at the WGC-Dell Match Play? 'Probably just put in earplugs'

If Max Homa needed a jolt to remind him he'd stepped out of the conventional stroke-play world for a week it certainly didn't take long.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply


Top News: Golf