MILTON, Ga. – Max Homa endured a cruel finish to his second round Wednesday at the NCAA Championship.
In an hour, the Cal senior went from chasing the NCAA’s all-time scoring record to sitting outside the clubhouse at Capital City Club, waiting to see if he would be assessed a one-shot penalty for slow play.
Rules officials here have set up four pace-of-play checkpoints on the Crabapple Course – Nos. 4, 9, 13 and 18. Players have 14 minutes to complete each hole.
The three players in Homa’s group – he was paired with Alabama’s Scott Strohmeyer and UCLA’s Jonathan Garrick – missed their checkpoints on both 9 and 18, meaning they were potentially subject to a one-stroke penalty. Afterward, they discussed their round with rules officials for about an hour.
Eventually, Homa and Strohmeyer were cleared of any wrongdoing, but after the officials reverted to personal times, Garrick was docked one stroke, turning his 70 into a 1-over 71. It was the first slow-play penalty at NCAAs since 2011.
Asked what those player-rules official sit-downs were like, Alabama coach Jay Seawell said: “You sit there and they actually grill you pretty good. You feel like you’re in a Turkish prison.”
Homa said he didn’t know what a Turkish prison felt like, but added: “I felt like I was in detention. They had me sit outside and told me to wait with Strohmeyer. It felt like we ditched class. It wasn’t fun. I wouldn’t wish that on anybody.”
It was a bizarre end to a wild second round.
Homa was 8 under through 15 holes, challenging to match not only the opening 61 here by Arizona State’s Jon Rahm but also the NCAA’s all-time mark of 60.
Instead, Homa three-putted from long range on 16, then made double bogey on the par-4 finishing hole after finding the greenside bunker and taking three putts. He settled for a 5-under 65.
Cal coach Steve Desimone said Homa was “going through a lot of tumult” earlier this spring as his starting senior weighed his pro options. Ultimately, Homa decided last month that he would stay amateur in hopes of securing a spot on this year’s Walker Cup team, though his plans could change in the next few months.
“He’s been a new man since then,” Desimone said.
Indeed, since making the decision, Homa has tied for second at the Western Intercollegiate, won the Pac-12 Championship after an opening 61, and tied for 11th at NCAA regionals. Now, he is tied for third with one round to go.
“You could make the case that he’s been the best player in the country,” Desimone said.
Good timing for top-ranked Cal.