CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The putt hadn’t even toppled over the front edge, but Max Homa was already in full throat.
The Presidents Cup rookie had been dreaming about moments like these his entire career, long before he bugged U.S. captain Davis Love III for a pick that he never really needed to lobby for. Whether he believes it or not, Homa has joined the American elite. This was his showcase event.
The 31-year-old has long been competitively insecure. He used to tell caddie Joe Griner that he “sucks.” He stopped co-hosting a popular podcast because he didn’t think rehashing all of his weekly disappointments was beneficial for his mental health. Sometimes he’ll watch another top player and catch himself thinking that he needs to make a few tweaks, never truly believing that he belongs or can reach that upper level. His self-deprecating press conferences are entertaining but have the vibe of a therapy session, and he often seems to need convincing that he’s actually the 16th-best golfer on the planet.
His first U.S. cup team appointment should have been validation, and yet he still approached the assignment with wide-eyed wonder.
“I feel very thankful,” said Homa, uttering a word that hasn’t often been associated this year with professional golfers, many of whom are outrageously gifted but still sound ungrateful in this new age of LIV.
“I’m not super, super close with anybody on this team, but I have always respected and gotten along with everybody, and it's been amazing to watch these 11 other guys who are incredibly good, incredibly acclaimed, so many accomplishments, cheering us on coming down the stretch.”
Homa has been slotted into the final match each of the past two days, first with Tony Finau and again on Friday with fellow first-timer Billy Horschel.
In the alternate-shot format, Homa and Finau carded two nervy bogeys early but played blemish-free for the rest of the afternoon, grinding out a 1-up victory that gave the Americans an opening 4-1 lead.
On Day 2, the U.S. once again took total control, earning two early points and tying two other matches. Now there was a chance to secure another full point, giving the home team a record-tying 8-2 advantage that – against this stacked roster – would appear insurmountable.
Throughout the fourballs match Horschel had performed better, but he continually lifted up his teammate with positive reinforcement. “I just knew Max was going to show up at some point,” Horschel said. “I kept saying, ‘Hey, it’s your time. You’re going to hit some good shots here. Do your thing.’”
That time arrived on the 17th green, when Homa broke out of a tie by burying a 13-footer for birdie. Now the players and the captains and the wives and the support staff had gathered around the last group, willing them home, and the entire crowd ringed the final hole – so many people, so close, Homa said, “that you can feel them on the back of your neck.”
In that taut moment, the Internationals were game. Canadian Taylor Pendrith, facing a must-make 15-footer, rammed home his birdie try that briefly looked like it could be good enough for a tie. But then Homa stepped in and pured his putt, beginning to walk toward the edge of the green, toward his teammates, before the putt even dropped. His primal scream preempted the roar of the crowd.
After the walk-off win, Homa uncorked an emphatic fist pump and chest-bumped Sam Burns and Collin Morikawa before getting mobbed by the rest of his ballyhooed teammates. At last, he felt like one of them.
“The golf’s amazing,” Homa said, “but you remember that kind of stuff well into your days. So I feel very thankful for that.
“I was nervous as could be over that putt, but it was fun. I was telling my wife, ‘When we talk about things money can’t buy – money cannot buy that feeling.’ That was something that I will remember forever, and I will tell anybody who ever wants to hear about it how that felt.”
Homa’s dagger didn’t just earn another full point for the Americans – it put this Presidents Cup out of reach. The 8-2 margin through two sessions matches the largest in event history; the other instance was in 2017, the last time the Americans were at home, when they so thoroughly dominated the Internationals that they came within a point of ending the competition a day early. They wound up winning by eight.
The youngest U.S. team on record doesn’t intend to show any mercy here either, and it’s why Love will turn to a few of his studs to put this one on ice. Going off in morning foursomes for the Americans are future Hall of Famers Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas; then top rookie Cameron Young and two-time major champion Collin Morikawa; followed by world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler and best friend Sam Burns, who combined for seven victories last season.
But in the anchor spot – again – is Max Homa, who has earned the trust of the captain and will be sent out for a third consecutive match.
“No surprise,” Love said. “He’s a strong player.”
And now Homa is developing the mind to match all those physical gifts. He’s an ascendant talent, a five-time winner, but he described his euphoric experience here as “a hundred times better” than any individual accomplishment.
“You’ve got captains that have won majors. You have players who have won multiple majors. You have the best golfers on the planet relying on you. And to show up and show out for them is just nothing like a regular golf tournament,” Homa said. “I haven’t had much success in majors, but I can’t even imagine that that feeling right there would compare. I wanted to be out here to help represent my country best I could and help represent these guys the best I could.
“So this, to me, is top of the top.”