Max Homa puts it all together to break through at Wells Fargo Championship

CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 05: Max Homa celebrates on the 18th green after making his par putt to win the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 05, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
CHARLOTTE, NORTH CAROLINA - MAY 05: Max Homa celebrates on the 18th green after making his par putt to win the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club on May 05, 2019 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) /

Max Homa took care of business on Sunday at the Wells Fargo Championship, taking a huge step in his career, as well as adding his name to the list of former “unknowns” enjoying unforeseen success on the PGA TOUR this year.

If there was a golf tournament featuring Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, Paul Casey and Rickie Fowler, who would win? At this weekend’s Wells Fargo, they played such a tournament and the answer turned out to be: Max Homa. That surprised even reasonably informed PGA Tour followers because until this week there had been no particular reason for them to be aware that somebody named Max Homa even existed.

Not only does he exist, Homa’s final round 67 gave him a four-round total of 269 that beat Joel Dahmen by three strokes with Rose another stroke back. And as has been the case this season following victories by Adam Long, Keith Mitchell, Corey Conners and C.T. Pan, the outcome sent those in the know scurrying to the PGA record book in a search for clues as to what in Homa’s background could have led to such an outcome.

It may be a long search. His victory improved Homa’s standing in the FedEx Cup points list by a nifty 103 places, jumping him from 138th to 35th. It was the first time that Homa, winless in 68 starts, had ranked among the top 100 in four seasons. Since debuting full-time in 2015, Homa has led the nomadic existence familiar to the majority of tour aspirants. He started 27 events that season, made one top 10, missed 15 cuts and was demoted to the

Earning his card a second time for the 2017 season, he played in 17 events, missed 15 cuts, and was demoted a second time. The 2018-19 season started out equally rocky, with missed cuts in six of his first seven events. Then Homa coupled a tie for 26th at the Waste Management with a tie for 10th at the AT&T to at least suggest he might belong alongside the big names. His six starts between Pebble and Wells Fargo weren’t exactly stirring – no finishes higher than a tie for 20th at the Honda – but at least they netted four paychecks.

During the 2018-19 season Homa has run up unremarkable numbers. He entered the Wells Fargo with only modestly positive records in Strokes Gained Off The Tee, Approaching the Green and Putting. But his chipping game was his principal impediment, costing him about four-tenths of a stroke per round.

At the Wells Fargo, Max Homa fought that weakness to an effective standstill, emerging from his four rounds with a score of 0.53 Strokes Gained Around The Green. But what really kicked Homa up from the realm of the tour unknowns this weekend was his putting. In his first round 69, he gained 1.975 strokes against the field on the greens. During his Friday 63, he added another 4.0 Strokes Gained Putting, and his Sunday 67 was fueled by another 4.1 Strokes Gained on the greens. For the week, Homa’s putting game beat the field average by nearly 10 full strokes.

The result was a nuclear-level boost to Homa’s tour profile. As previously noted, he jumped from 138th to 35th in Fed Ex Cup points, moving ahead – at least for the moment – of such names as Garcia, Webb Simpson, Adam Scott, Brandt Snedeker, Bubba Watson, Patrick Reed and Ian Poulter.
He made a move of similar scope – from 137th to 30th – up the money list, propelling his seasonal earnings to $1.795 million, and his career winnings to $2.4 million. Prior to this weekend. Homa’s entire tour career – including the $500,000 he had made this year – amounted to a little more than $1 million.

It may seem like a valid question how somebody with no background of tour success could beat the heavyweights. It sounds like the equivalent of a Midwest League team whipping the Los Angeles Dodgers, a developmental league squad knocking off the Golden State Warriors or a bunch of semi-pros taking down the New England Patriots.

It’s actually not; it’s the nature of the PGA Tour today, where the competition is so balanced that literally on any given week almost any of the 150 entrants could win. Keep in mind that the difference between the players currently ranked first (Justin Thomas, 69.5) and 150th (Kyle Stanley, 71.7) in scoring average, is only about two strokes per round.

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With that kind of competitive balance, forecasting the winner of a tour event is something close to drawing a name from a hat. This week the name that came out of that hat was Max Homa.