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Friday, February 26, 2021

Hometown hero Homa beats Finau on wild Sunday at Riviera

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Hometown hero Max Homa held his nerve with a par at the second playoff hole to beat Tony Finau and win his second PGA Tour title at the Genesis Invitational.

Homa claimed his first win since the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship despite missing a golden opportunity to claim the title in regulation play. A stunning drive down the 72nd hole was followed by an arrowed approach to a little over three feet for birdie and a one shot win. With tournament host Tiger Woods amongst those gathered around 18, the stage was set for Homa. The putt agonisingly lipped out.

“I might have to apologize to him, you’re not supposed to miss a three-footer in front of Tiger Woods,” Homa joked after the playoff. “I got it done. I’m very proud. We talked about it, my coach and I and Joe, playing like Tiger today, found the green, lot of strategy, trust yourself. I did that today. I didn’t make a bogey this entire day starting back to the restart, which was pretty darn good in my opinion. Yeah, I saw Tiger the other day, I was too scared to talk to him, but he’s forced into talking to me today, so it’s going to be a pretty awesome moment.”

That short putt aside, Homa’s play was exemplary on Sunday and it needed to be with Tony Finau laying down the gauntlet with a seven-under par round of 64 to set the clubhouse target at 12-under par. Homa went bogey-free in regulation, carding five birdies in his 66 to match Finau as overnight leader Sam Burns slipped to 11-over par to miss out on the playoff by a shot.

The golfing gods looked to have conspired against Homa. If the lip-out on the 72nd wasn’t enough, his tee-shot at the reachable par-4 10th, the first extra hole, came to rest at the foot of a tree, handing the advantage to Finau. With Finau looking likely for his birdie, the odds were stacked in his favour until Homa manufactured a stunning pitch, trapping the ball to spring left and onto the putting surface.

Both players would miss their chances for birdie but it would be Finau who’d make the fatal error at the next, finding the bunker with an eight iron off the par-3 14th before failing to get up and down. It meant Homa’s two-putt par was enough to capture an emotional win at Riviera, a course he’s been coming to for as long as he could remember.

“It didn’t hit me until just now, sorry,” he said. “Been watching this tournament my whole life, why I fell in love with golf. Wow, I didn’t think I’d be like this. Tiger, another reason I’m into golf. I had good feelings this week. Been playing great. City of Champions, you know, Dodgers, Lakers, me now, it’s a weird feeling.”

Homa admitted that through the highs and lows of his missed putt on the 72nd, his ball resting against the tree on the first playoff hole and his shot at victory at the second, he had the sound advice of his wife running through his ears.

“Forgive quickly.” So when I missed the putt, she called me and she said, “Forgive quickly,” forgive myself,” Homa revealed. “I’m going to get some bad breaks, got one on 10, made the most of it. Hit a great shot on 14 and kind of forced Tony’s hand a little bit with the bunker shot. He’s obviously a great player and I think he had two — a great bunker shot and a great putt. I felt like if I kept wearing people down today, a lot of pars, some birdies, I could get it done. It’s a lot of emotions, this place means a lot to me.”

As for Finau, he collects his 21st top-five on Tour since the start of the 2016-17 season, tied for sixth-most among all players and the most among those without a victory in that span. The overriding emotion?

“Right now I’m disappointed,” said Finau. “I didn’t execute the shot I was trying to hit here on the next hole and it bit me in the butt. But man, I shot 64 today on a day where I needed to just to get into the playoff. I think as I look back on the week in the next couple days there’s going to be a lot to grow from. Today’s round was pretty special. I was able to make some key putts in regulation just to keep myself in it. Yeah, you know, I fell short, but I take a lot of positives.”

Full scoring HERE


 

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