Max Homa, who grew up idolizing Tiger Woods before he became an NCAA champion at Cal, won the Genesis Invitational on Sunday, a tournament hosted by the game’s greatest modern player.
Homa survived missing a 3-foot putt to win on the 18th hole and landing his tee shot on the first playoff up against a tree to beat Tony Finau on the second extra hole at famed Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades.
Afterward, Homa, 30, was in tears as he described his emotions to a CBS interviewer.
"I've been watching this tournament my whole life," said Homa, who grew up 30 miles away in Valencia and considers Riviera the best golf course in the world. "Wow. I didn't think it would be like this. ... The city of Champions: Dodgers, Lakers, me now. It's a weird feeling.”
Later, on Twitter, Homa wrote, “I spent over a dozen years trying to get Tiger to give me a high 5 at Riviera and today he handed me a trophy hahaha what a world! #golf"
While winning for just the second time on the PGA tour, Homa pocketed a winner’s check for $1,674,000 — biggest payday of his career. He also soared from No. 79 to No. 10 in the FedEx Cup standings.
*** Cal golf coach Walter Chun talks in the video at the top about his emotions while watching Homa win on Sunday.
Homa's emotional interview after winning:
The 2013 NCAA champion for Cal, Homa has played well this season with three top-25 finishes since the calendar turned to 2021. He tied for seventh a week ago at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
He was in the mix this week from the start, shooting a first-round 66 that included birdies on the final three holes. He shot 70s the next two days, including an eagle on No. 17 on Friday and another on the first hole Saturday. Play was halted Saturday before all golfers were done due to 35 mph winds.
But Homa overcame all conditions and had no bogeys over his final 26 holes of the tournament. With birdies on Nos. 1, 6, 7 and 10, he was 4-under through 14 holes Sunday and 11 under for the event.
While Sam Burns faded from the lead after bogeys on 12, 14 and 15, Finau was on his way to a Sunday round of 64 and moved even with Homa.
With a birdie on No. 17, Finau move into the lead. He was hoping to improve upon nine runner-up finishes on the tour since his lone victory in Puerto Rico in 2016. Homa stayed even with his birdie on No. 17.
The title appeared to belong to Homa after his second shot on the par-4 18th left him a 3-foot putt. CBS announcers said he’d made more than 99 percent of all 3-footer over his career. But he missed, lipping out the shot. He tapped in for par and a final-round 66, sending him to a playoff with Finau.
The missed three-footer
"You're not supposed to miss a 3-footer in front of Tiger Woods," Homa said later. "I saw him yesterday and was too scared to talk to him. But he's forced to talk to me now."
The two started on the par-3 10th hole and Homa’s shot off the tee was wide left of the green and landed up against a tree. The CBS announcing crew groaned in empathy but Homa rescued the moment by hooking a chip shot onto the green within about 12 feet of the hole. He barely missed a birdie putt then tapped in to save par and move to the a second playoff hole on the 14th.
Homa's shot from behind the tree:
Finau’s tee shot on the par-3 14th landed in the bunker to the left of the green. Homa made par on the hole and Finau bogeyed, giving Homa his first title since the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.
As recently as 2018 Homa wasn’t even on the tour after missing the cut 15 times in 17 tournaments the year before. He earned less than $20,000 that year, but more than made up for it on Sunday.
Cover photo of Max Homa and Tiger Woods by Gary A. Vasquez, USA Today
Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo