Could a former Cal golfer win the PGA Championship this week at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma?
Oh sure, Collin Morikawa is considered a legitimate contender, as usual. The 25-year-old already owns two major victories, including the 2020 PGA at Harding Park in San Francisco.
No, the question is whether Max Homa, the 31-year-old Cal grad, can challenge for his first victory in a golf major.
Homa has had virtually no success in the majors. He tied for 48th at the Masters in April and shared 40th place last summer at the Open Championship at Royal St George in Sandwich, England, won by Morikawa.
Otherwise, in his past eight majors, Homa has missed the cut six times.
So why has Golf Digest rated Homa as the 11th-best player entered in this week’s PGA?
Probably has something to do with his eight top-25 finishes in 14 starts this season, an official world ranking that has crept to a career-best 28th and a No. 6 FedEx Cup points ranking, all of which has added up to more than $4.1 million in prize money this season.
Three of Homa’s four career victories have come in the past 15 months, and after his win at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago Homa talked about his growing self-confidence.
“All of a sudden last year I get in the top 50 in the world and you start looking around and it’s a new crop of people and you start thinking to myself, ‘Am I as good as these guys?’ ” Homa said.
“So I’ve always struggled with it, but I have great people around me who bash me over the head telling me that I am that guy. I tried to walk around this week believing that and faking it a little bit until I made it.”
“I just feel like I'm coming into my own. I'm starting to believe in myself and that's all I can really ask for.”
Homa is partnered Thursday with Bryson DeChambeau and Tyrrell Hatton and will tee off on the 10th hole at 5:49 a.m. PDT. Morikawa, Scottie Scheffler and Jon Rahm will start on the first tee at 11:36 a.m. PDT.
Golf Digest’s rankings of the top 100 players at Southern Hills starts with Scheffler, followed by Jordan Spieth. Rahm, Shane Lowry and Morikawa round out the top-5.
Homa checks in at No. 11, immediately behind Cameron Smith but ahead of such household names as Xander Schauffele (14), Dustin Johnson (17) Brooks Koepka (22) and three-time PGA winner Tiger Woods (28).
Here’s what Golf Digest had to say about Homa:
A commanding performance at TPC Potomac (at the Wells Fargo Championship) brought him his fourth PGA Tour victory since May 2019—only Patrick Cantlay, Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Justin Thomas have more. He’s finally beginning to believe that he belongs in the elite tier, and a golfer with belief is a very dangerous golfer indeed.
Clearly comfortable closing out tournaments in high-pressure moments, which makes his awful major record hard to decipher. He’s simply far too good, and too well-rounded a player, to have missed the cut in seven of 10 major starts with no top-40 finishes. He spoke candidly after his Wells Fargo victory about truly feeling like he has a chance to win at Southern Hills, and he’ll be a trendy pick despite his barren major history.
Homa’s excitement showed in this tweet he posted after getting his first look at the Southern Hills course during a practice round this week:
Sounds like he's ready for Thursday.
Here’s what Golf Digest had to say about Morikawa entering this week’s PGA:
He was (rightfully) overshadowed by his playing partner Rory McIlroy that day, but Morikawa’s final-round 67 at Augusta National brought him his third consecutive top-five finish in a major. It’s no surprise a generationally good iron player has had success in the toughest events, but that doesn’t make the start to his major championship career—two wins, five top-10s in nine starts—any less impressive.
Putting has improved since its nadir early last year, but it’s the recent leap in his chipping and overall creativity around the greens that has his camp so excited. Sniffed becoming World No. 1 before collapsing at the Hero World Challenge last December, so he has some major unfinished business in that department. Has no familiarity with Southern Hills, but that’s the same for nearly everyone in the field this week.
Cover photo of Max Homa by Scott Taetsch, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo