22 February 2021: Max Homa could have seen the bottom of the cup on the 72nd hole. He was that close, needing to make a putt from three feet for a win in the Genesis Invitational. As the ball took a thick slice of lip before curling out, Homa must have wondered about the what-if surrounding that nervy moment, after posting a bogey-free 66. Fortunately a quick call to his wife, Lacey Croom, helped calm the nerves though before taking on Tony Finau as the two men dueled for their second PGA TOUR title. “Forgive quickly,” advised Croom and Homa did just that to save an unlikely par on the 10th hole before making birdie on the par-3 14th to clinch a memorable victory.
“Obviously wasn’t a very good putt. It broke a little more than I would have liked it to for a three-footer. I just was a little nervous, honestly. This tournament means a lot to me,” asserted Homa.
Any time a player wins a tournament is memorable, but Riviera has special significance to Homa. It is the grounds he frequented as a child, idolising Tiger Woods. The soft pretzels and starry eyed golfing memories forged an enduring relationship for Homa with the Riviera.
Starting the back nine with a two-stroke deficit, Homa took advantage of some erratic golf from overnight leader Sam Burns to inch ahead before opening the door for Finau with that missed putt on the 18th hole. But despite a poor tee shot at the 10th which left him dealing with a ball nestled against a tree, he recovered to the green, saving par to keep the playoff alive. After all that drama, he needed just a par on the 14th to clinch his second career title on the PGA TOUR. Homa’s first came at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2019.
“I don’t know if I could ever do anything cooler in golf than this,” Homa said. “Just for me, for my caddie Joe, we were raised 25 miles north of here. Tiger Woods is handing us a trophy, that’s a pretty crazy thought. We grew up idolizing him, idolizing Riviera Country Club, idolizing the golf tournament. To get it done, it’s almost shocking, but it feels like it just can’t be topped.”
Finau continues to remain positive, as the count of missed opportunities continues to climb a steep hill. The 2016 winner of the Puerto Rico Open has since collected 21 top five finishes and ten second place results as he keeps the quest alive for a second victory. On Sunday he shot an impressive 64 to put himself in the thick of it all, before falling marginally short at the very end.
“Anytime I’ve had a chance to win, I haven’t been the guy that went low and today I was, so I can take a lot of confidence from that,” Finau said. “That’s something that I wanted to happen today to just prove to myself on Sundays that I can put myself in the thick of it and shoot a number. At the end of the day I’m going to be able to look back on that and have a lot of positives to take from it.”
A birdie at the ninth gave a three shot cushion for Burns. He has been the runaway leader this week, holding a comfortable lead through each of the first three rounds. Burns reached 12-under through 36 holes, tying the course record while enjoying a five-stroke advantage over the field. A windy Saturday and some nervy golf on the final stretch forced Burns to remain content with a third place finish at 11-under, just one back from the playoff contenders. Eventually, Finau and Homa would go into the playoff at 12-under, exactly where Burns was two rounds into another exciting edition of the Genesis Invitational.
Homa had an even week, posting 66 to open and close with a pair of 70s keeping him on course through the middle rounds. Dustin Johnson started the day two adrift alongside Homa and Matthew Fitzpatrick, but never really got going. He settled for a 72 and tie for eighth place. Fitzpatrick shot 71 for tie in fifth with Jon Rahm and Viktor Hovland, five behind the leaders. Cameron Smith made a solid 67 to earn a fourth place finish at 9-under 275, two behind Burns.
Max Homa 66-70-70-66—272 (-12)*
Tony Finau 71-67-70-64—272 (-12)
Sam Burns 64-66-74-69—273 (-11)
Cameron Smith 69-68-71-67—275 (-9)
Jon Rahm 70-69-72-66—277 (-7)
Viktor Hovland 71-69-70-67—277 (-7)
Matthew Fitzpatrick 66-71-69-71—277 (-7)
R1 (2): Tyler McCumber (67), Jim Furyk (69)
R2 (2): Sam Burns (66), Carlos Ortiz (69)
R3 (0): None
R4 (3): Max Homa (66), Viktor Hovland (67), Jim Furyk (69)