Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re celebrating a victory for one of the best beards in golf, that of Max Homa‘s caddie Joe Greiner, who, I should add, is a nice player in his own right. That long-term investment — not shaving — paid off in prime time. Let’s get to the rest of the week!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Something you might have missed.
At the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship, Max Homa opened with rounds of 69-63 and found himself in the second-to-last pairing on Saturday alongside none other than Rory McIlroy, the only two-time winner in the event’s history.
McIlroy had won at Quail Hollow in both 2010 and 2015. He was the reigning Players champ, the fourth-ranked golfer in the world and in the midst of a PGA Tour Player of the Year-winning season. Homa, on the other hand, had spent the previous year relegated to the Korn Ferry Tour and was now hoping for his first win — or, at the very least, to accumulate enough points to keep his card for the following season.
But that was the week things changed. Homa shot 70-67 on the weekend to run away from the field and grab his maiden victory. And this Sunday, after Homa had bested him at the Wells Fargo again, McIlroy thought back on that day. His description of Homa’s game sounds like a challenge as much as anything.
“Yeah, he was way too good a player to lose his card,” McIlroy said. “He’s a really good player. Honestly, when you look at him play, you think he should have done better than he has. I think that’s sort of how he looks, how he swings it, his whole demeanor. Sometimes it just takes guys a little bit longer to sort of figure out their games and I guess live up to their potential, but he definitely seems to have come into his own over the last couple years.”
Coming into his own, indeed. Now there are two golfers with multiple Wells Fargo wins. And the more often Homa’s name is mentioned alongside McIlroy (who won his third Wells Fargo last year) the more likely it is he’s continuing to max out that potential.
Who won the week?
Max Homa’s killer mentality
Let’s borrow from Homa’s two podcast appearances Sunday night. The first came from Homa’s showing on Pardon My Take, where his appearance was mostly friendly banter before host PFT asked him a serious question: What changed? In other words, what was the difference between 2017 Max Homa, who lost his Tour card, to 2022 Homa, with three wins in 16 months? His answer was as good a summation of his entire journey as I’ve heard.
“What changed? I dunno,” Homa replied. “I was a really good college player, I won the national championship my senior year and won my conference championship — I was a good player. And when I got on Tour I tried changing some things to be what I thought I needed to be and it set me back a while, and then it killed my confidence, which I already struggle with.
“I’ve always had a good work ethic and I just feel like I’m on the right track and I’m starting to believe in myself again. And just marrying those two things has been fun because I feel — it sounds dumb, I know people relive their high school and college glory days, but I just feel like I’m kinda back to that where I go to tournaments expecting to win a bit more.”
What has always impressed me the most about Homa is his duality. How can someone be a self-aware, self-deprecating, thoughtful person with an active Twitter account and also turn into a ruthless closer on the golf course? That’s Homa’s secret. But as he told No Laying Up, Greiner is there to help keep him in the right mindset.
“We were on the [15th] tee and he said, “You’re a f—— killer. You’re the killer here. And I went out and birdied that hole, went up three, and coming off the green he said it again: “You’re a f—— killer.”
“I still felt comfy, and getting that little boost from Joe, knowing that he has a lot of faith on me. He’s always told me I’m a winner.”
Consolation prizes are still prizes…
Keegan Bradley’s U.S. Open hopes
Keegan Bradley traded punches with Homa all day Sunday and was within one on the 18th tee despite two double bogeys. But his T2 finish — his third top-10 in his last five starts — elevated him to No. 44 in the world. What that means is he’s a likely qualifier for the U.S. Open when the top 60 are selected in two weeks’ time. For a New England kid to play a U.S. Open just outside of Boston, that week will be a dream come true.
He also led the field in Strokes Gained: Putting, gaining a preposterous 9.75 strokes on the field. What makes it even more preposterous is that Bradley hasn’t finished better than 149th on Tour in putting in six seasons.
“Jeez, if I can putt like this, I feel like I can do a lot of damage the rest of the year,” he said.
Matt Fitzpatrick, certified mudder
When conditions are tough and the weather’s nasty, it feels like a near-lock that Matt Fitzpatrick’s name is going to drift near the top of the leaderboard.
“I like playing when it’s like this,” Fitzpatrick said after surviving horrific conditions on Saturday. Then he clarified. “I hate being out there while it’s there, but you see everyone else and they hate it a little bit more, so it’s good to just keep competing and trying to get around.”
Cameron Young’s Rookie of the Year campaign
Don’t look now, but Cameron Young has quietly assembled a season that includes three runner-up finishes: He finished T2 at the Sanderson Farms, T2 at the Genesis and now, T2 at the Wells Fargo.
Asked to assess his rookie season to this point, Young wasn’t overly impressed. “I think I’ve done okay,” he said. “I’ve come close to winning a few times, so hopefully it will be the other way around at some point and I’ll be having a different conversation.”
Rory McIlroy’s form
His weekend didn’t match the drama of his Sunday 64 at the Masters, but Rory McIlroy‘s 68-68 was plenty impressive nonetheless. (Only Young, with 69-66, played it better the final two rounds.) At this point in his career, he’s not writing home about finishing fifth — but still, it’s encouraging going into his next start at the PGA Championship.
McIlroy was disappointed to play his final eight holes in one over par but still gave his game a positive assessment heading to Tulsa.
“I’m playing good,” he said. “Playing really good. No complaints with the game. Everything feels pretty solid.”
Maybe next week.
Sergio Garcia’s week
What’s that they say about crisis management? Control the story before the story controls you? Sergio Garcia took the opposite approach. After he got an incorrect ruling on No. 10 on Thursday, he spouted off on a rules official and said, among other things, “I can’t wait to leave this tour.” The reaction…wasn’t great. It was a sour moment for a man who has won more than $50 million on Tour and made his life playing pro golf out here.
Garcia also refused to speak to the media after multiple rounds, forgoing his chance to tell his side of the story — and perhaps clarify whether he plans to ditch the PGA Tour in favor of the new LIV Series, which kicks off in June. Now we’re left with the image of Garcia cursing in the long grass, with nothing from Garcia to counter that.
Jason Day’s weekend
If you’d told Jason Day he’d be in line for a T15 finish at the beginning of the week, that would mark his second-best finish of the season and seem like a pretty solid result. But given Day held the 36-hole lead, his weekend was a disappointment. He struggled in brutal Saturday conditions and got up-and-down on 18 just to break 80.
Day mentioned that he’d had a poor warmup and told Australian Golf Digest that he’d also battled some vertigo late in his round — but added that he played 13 poor holes before that.
Because Day is a golfer and we are an optimistic people, chances are he’ll take the positives from a 63-67 start rather than dwell on the 79-70 weekend. But he’ll certainly be hoping his next chance in contention goes more smoothly.
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
We’re in that zone where every day is forecast to be a high of 52 and a chance of rain. That means some days wind up in the low 60s and gorgeous sun while others are drizzly, mid-40s and miserable. There’s no real way to know which is coming and the forecasters don’t seem to even try to predict it.
I’m headed to Chambers Bay this afternoon and the forecast is in this nebulous zone. Fingers crossed it breaks the right way!
Three things to watch this week.
Typically I populate this section with three different items, but this week I want to point you in the direction of a three-part series called Strapped, which is produced by the gang at No Laying Up and is in its 10th “season.” This one blew me away.
The conceit of Strapped is fairly straightforward. Two buddies, Neil and Randy, fly to a new golf destination, play three rounds and try to keep their expenses under $500. It’s a proper antidote to golf’s typical course and travel content, which typically highlights the glitziest, most expensive and most exclusive.
But the show’s characters — Neil and Randy plus the man behind the camera, D.J. Piehowski — have developed the show into much more than that, too. Randy sounds a little bit like Owen Wilson and moves through the world with a similar aw-shucks curiosity. (Randy would do well in Midnight in Paris.) He has an eagerness for life’s little pleasures that makes it joyous to watch him navigate a new city, from its public golf offerings to its local restaurants to its haunted AirBnB selection.
Neil is a complementary character because he wears his emotions on his sleeve. He’s “The Kid,” the youngest member of the brand’s troupe and the best at diving into character. He’s developed into something of a method actor over the years, which make the stakes of every round feel heightened. Nobody soars higher nor falls harder. Friends call him “Icarito” because he flies too close to the sun before crashing back to earth with a late, inevitable double bogey.
If this sounds ridiculous, that’s the point. As the show has reached its 10th season, the trio is familiar enough with the concept that they can lean into its various iterations. Additional bonuses and penalties exist. It becomes endlessly self-referential; the reservoir of references is half the fun. But this three-episode stretch stands out because of the way it intersects with real life. At the time of filming, Neil is just two weeks from getting married. He’s stressed about final wedding details but also contemplating what it means to be moving on to the next phase of his life. This, in some ways, marks the end of “The Kid.” And Randy, who has dubbed the trip Neil’s “bachelor party,” is earnest in his concern about whether his buddy is having the enjoyable time he deserves.
You might find yourself cackling late in the final episode as Neil says, deadpan, “Shoutout to Myrtle Beach for being one of the least self-conscious places I’ve ever been.” (A spot-on observation.) And a couple minutes late you might find yourself strangely emotional as he raises a lukewarm Coors Light on an absurdist replica of St. Andrews’ Swilcan Bridge. The show about budget golf somehow turns into a poignant exploration of evolving friendships and growing up. Highest recommendation — even if you might need to start with season one to get all the jokes.
We’ll see you next week!