How Max Homa has put himself in contention for green jacket at 2024 Masters

Golden Bell was angry.

Many times has the 12th hole at Augusta National opened its mouth and swallowed dreams. The memorable ones come on Sunday. Greg Norman collapsing in 1996. Jordan Spieth carding a 9 almost a decade ago. And Francesco Molinari dunked a ball in 2019 to give Tiger Woods an opening.

Don’t be fooled. There are collapses early in the week, too, collapses that shatter any hopes of playing the weekend. On Thursday night, minutes before the horn blew because of darkness, Brian Harman’s tee shot rolled into Rae’s Creek, and he ended up carding a 47 on the back nine.

So imagine you’re Max Homa standing on the 12th tee. You just started Amen Corner with a bogey on 11. You’re in contention at Augusta National for the first time. And you’re playing with Woods, who knows the wind at Golden Bell as well as anyone — and even his ball flew into the pine straw.

You will hear much from Friday about the wind. It was howling, gusts around 40 mph pushing golf balls all over the place. What’s tough to gauge on TV is how those tall pine trees make the wind so difficult to judge. This is not simply a strong head wind.

For example: As Homa stood over his ball on Golden Bell, the No. 12 flag was blowing east. About 175 yards away, the 11th hole flag was whipping west.

“I don’t think it gets any tougher than this, to be honest,” said two-time Masters champion Jose Maria Olazábal. “Some of the time you are guessing how the ball is going to react up in the air.”

Added Cameron Young (-1): “The wind is all over the place and nowhere at all. … When you guess wrong, the ball goes in the water pretty much every time.”

Woods, Homa and Jason Day all took their time with the shot, waiting for the moment to strike, sometimes backing off if the gusts picked up or they had a bad feeling.

Finally, Homa stepped to his ball. He stopped for a moment, then committed to a swing, firing a low draw over the sand trap, into the center of the green. He parred Golden Bell. Heck, he parred the next six holes, too.

After finishing his first round early Friday morning, Homa finished his second round at 1-under inside a Georgia wind tunnel. He’ll head into the weekend with a 6-under score overall, for now tied at the top with Bryson DeChambeau and Scottie Scheffler.

This for a man who, in 17 career majors, had made eight cuts and only once placed inside the top 10 (T-10 at 2023 Open Championship).

So what’s changed? Why now?

It goes back to that 12th tee.

“These conditions,” Homa said, “have helped almost lean into the patience and all the things you hear, the clichés.”

Golf is not just a mental game in the sense you can’t throw your club and go full tilt on every shank. It is a mental game in not drawing up a Hail Mary every shot. To be great is to hit shots you can execute consistently, not try to make the shots you can hit 50% of the time.

That is where Homa has matured. That’s why he’s in contention for a green jacket.

For about a year now, the 33-year-old most famous for podcast appearances and for clowning folks on social media has journaled. Much of it is about what he’s grateful for: family, friends, opportunities. But it can expand.

On Thursday, he wrote in his journal: “However good I am is however good I am.”

In other words: Don’t be anyone but Max Homa. Don’t try and hit golf shots that Max Homa can’t hit.

On No. 18 on Friday, with wind that made the pines look flimsier than beef jerky, Homa cranked a low-trajectory drive … “instead of trying to hit the high cool one,” he said.

“It just doesn’t fit me,” Homa said. “Just being patient and disciplined I feel like is a testament to the mental goals I’ve set for myself.”

Masters leaders

Full leaderboard, cuts

  • Max Homa (-6)

  • Bryson DeChambeau (-6)

  • Scottie Scheffler (-6)

  • Nicolai Hojgaard (-4)

  • Cameron Davis (-3)

  • Collin Morikawa (-3)