SAN DIEGO — Max Homa grew up watching the Farmers Insurance Open and even skipped class to sneak down to Torrey Pines to watch Tiger Woods play the South Course one year.
“One hole, 15, another bear of a hole, I remember he hit a massive drive and it looked like he hit a 9-iron and spun it back to like two feet. That’s the hole that I just remember sticks out so much to me,” he said Tuesday. “It’s graceful and it’s powerful, something you have to almost see up close.”
“Even when I got out here as a professional, just the vibe around him,” Homa continued. “One year there was a fog delay and we were all stuck on the putting green and he’s playing with two very popular and amazing golfers, Billy Horschel and (Rickie Fowler). The first day there was a thousand people on the putting green and the next day he had withdrawn that afternoon, the next day there was the same fog delay and there were like 22 people around us. It was like ‘Dang, this guy really controls the world.’ Just stuff like that I always thought was fascinating about him.”
Making his eighth Farmers Insurance Open appearance this week, Homa has returned to the 36-hole municipal gem along the cliffs of the Pacific Ocean with a lofty goal: become the first player to defend his title at Torrey Pines since Woods won four consecutive years from 2005-2008. A title defense wouldn’t be anything new for Homa, who went back-to-back up the coast in Napa in 2021 and 2022 at the Fortinet Championship for two of his six PGA Tour wins.
In fact, four of the Burbank native’s victories have come in his home Golden State, but don’t just chalk up his California success to good vibes. Homa noted a similarity between Torrey Pines and Riviera – where he won the 2021 Genesis Invitational – and how both courses demand elite ball striking, which happens to be one the best parts of his fine-tuned game. Not to mention his comfort with putting on those pesky poa annua greens.
“A lot of guys seem to struggle on poa annua. I know a lot of guys complain about it. I don’t know, I’ve just had a lot of success putting on poa annua,” Homa explained while also noting his struggles at last year’s U.S. Open at Los Angeles Country Club. “I grew up putting on it. It’s just one of those things I probably have a bit more comfort in it around the whole state.”
Homa’s title defense isn’t the only reason he’s in the headlines this week. On Tuesday Capital One’s “The Match” announced Homa would compete against Rory McIlroy, Lexi Thompson and Rose Zhang in the next version of the made-for-TV series. Usually one to never shy away from having a little fun, Homa declined to start the trash talk with his three opponents.
“I need to save my bullets because they’re all phenomenal golfers and I have a feeling if things get going sideways, I’m only going to have one bit of value left and it will be my mouth,” he quipped. “I’m going to save those for when I need them.”
Admirable as his humility may be, Homa is riding the best wave of form of his career these days. Homa followed his 2022 campaign that featured two wins and five top-10 finishes with two more wins and a whopping 13 top-10s in 2023. He also had a runner-up and a third-place showing as well as a win in November in South Africa on the DP World Tour.
“Wins, you leave a legacy with wins so I’m never going to discount them or discredit them,” said Homa, “but when you’re talking about the best players, they’re around the lead a lot.”
“I was incredibly proud of last season not as much because of two wins, but I was really pumped about the top-10s,” he added. “I just want to put myself in position as much as possible. I know there’s going to be weeks that I get it done and weeks that I don’t, but being around it I think shows the, I guess, skill and talent of a golfer.”