Max Homa’s win at the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship represents one of the most remarkable turnarounds in golf history. He pocketed $1.42 million for his victory, and while that’s an enormous figure, it’s hard to argue he didn’t earn it.
Just two years ago, Homa played a full year’s worth of PGA tournaments and made just $18,008 in prize money. A little over eight months ago, the 28-year-old was ranked 1,282nd in the world. After winning the 2013 individual NCAA Division I Championship at Cal, Homa seemed destined for greatness. He earned his PGA Tour card for the 2015 season, but made just 12 cuts in 27 events to lose it as fast as he’d gained it. He earned it back for the 2017 season, but what entailed can only be described as trying.
Homa made just two cuts in 17 events, hitting a dreadful 50.48% of fairways along the way. His three FedExCup points were the fewest of any PGA player who competed in at least 10 events that year. He finished the season with a dreadful +14 at the Wyndham Championship. It was brutal on him mentally, but he resolved to keep pushing forward. This interview on the No Laying Up Podcast is a great look into his mindset at the time:
“I’d have weeks where I’d be like, ‘OK, I’m gonna miss the cut. But I’m gonna grind as hard as I can and every single day, every single day, I’m gonna learn one new thing. And just be so fricking prepared for when (my game) comes around.’ And I posted it on Twitter when I got my card, but I found this quote that Kobe (Bryant) had in his locker, I think he got it from (Gregg) Popovich. It’s about this stonecutter. It says this stonecutter is chopping away at a big boulder. And he swings at it one time, two times, three times, 100 times, without a dent being made in it. And on the 101st time, it completely breaks apart. And it says, ‘A wise man knows it was not the 101st blow that did it, it was the 100 that came before it.’ And I was like, ‘This is me right now. This is how I’m going to leave my mark on this game and this is how I’m getting back.’”
Back on the Web.com Tour in 2018, Homa’s season was filled with ups-and-downs. He registered three top-10 finishes, but still missed cuts way too often. During the Portland Open, he needed to birdie his final four holes just to maintain his Web.com Tour status. He did exactly that, then finished out the season strong to earn his PGA Tour card for the third time. He finished 60th at the Safeway Open and then proceeded to miss six consecutive cuts, but three months ago, something clicked. Coming into the Wells Fargo, Homa had made the cut in six of his last eight tournaments. He picked up a top-10 finish at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, then a top-20 finish at The Honda Classic.
On Sunday, Homa defeated the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose and Jason Day to earn his first PGA Tour victory. He earned a two-year Tour exemption with the win, and his world ranking catapulted all the way up to 102nd.
“My attitude is awesome nowadays. I don’t really get too down on myself. I have an awesome, awesome caddie who doesn’t let me. If I’m quiet, he yells at me and tells me quiet golfers are usually very mean to themselves,” Homa told ESPN. “I didn’t know if this day would ever come, let alone (if I’d) just keep my card. But it’s been very validating. I’ve been working my tail off, and I’ve been seeing a lot of great results.”