NAPA, Calif. – Max Homa is a man on a mission this week.
Homa, who played his college golf at nearby Cal, is back at the Fortinet Championship seeking to become the first player to win the same PGA Tour event in three consecutive years since Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic (2009-11).
Last weekend, during the U.S. team’s scouting trip to Rome, he pulled Stricker aside and said that he looked forward to shaking his hand when they met again at Marco Simone Golf Club as the last two people to three-peat.
“I’d probably have to shake Tiger’s hand like 40 times, that’s how many times he’s done it,” Homa joked of Woods, who did it a remarkable six times.
Homa, who is No. 7 in the world and the highest-ranked player in the field, is the sixth player to compete as the two-time defending champion this season; three of the previous five finished in the top 10.
“It’s the only thing on my mind, honestly,” Homa said of pulling off the hat trick at Silverado Resort’s North Course.
He won the tournament for the first time in 2021 with a pair of 65s on the weekend. Defending his title took a little bit of luck as England’s Danny Willett looked poised to claim the trophy.
“Danny hit it to 4 feet and I thought to myself I need a miracle, and I got one,” Homa said.
Did he ever. First, he chipped in for birdie at 18 and the watched Willett take three putts to blow the title.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) September 18, 2022
Having finished tied for ninth in the FedEx Cup Playoffs in August, Homa already has locked up his status for next season and beyond as well as a spot in all of the 2024 signature events. But it’s good form for the defending champion to return the following year and Homa also is an ambassador for the title sponsor. He noted that Fortinet said he could skip this year’s tournament if he qualified for the Ryder Cup with the short turnaround time between playing in Napa and the Ryder Cup in Rome, but he decided to pursue a three-peat.
“You don’t really ever get that many opportunities to do that. I hope I get another chance at some point, but if it’s just this chance, that’s fine, too. So I think that’s really been a big motivating factor being up here,” he said.
Homa is battling some fatigue after a significant time-zone change and all the responsibilities that go along with being a defending champion, not to mention an ambassador for the title sponsor but he noted, “it’s just golf.”
“This week has been a bit of a grind, felt like I was a zombie the last two days, today I finally feel a little bit better energy-wise,” he said. “I think once we get to Rome it will be easy, the adrenaline’s going to be at a million, so I’m not so worried about that.”
For Homa, trying to win three in a row isn’t a burden; he’s treating this week as a rare chance to free-wheel it.
“It’s the opposite of pressure,” he said. “It’s a very comforting place to be like truly playing with one thing on my mind, which is nice, and that’s to try to hopefully not have as much chaos as last year but hopefully have the same outcome.”