Homa steady in Sunday duel, gets 4th tour win at Wells Fargo
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By BEN NUCKOLS
POTOMAC, Md. (AP) Max Homa kept hearing from his coach, caddie and other supporters that he needed to carry himself with more confidence, an attitude befitting a multiple PGA Tour winner.
With his fourth win overall, third in 15 months and second since he gave up his popular podcast to focus on his career and mental health, the 31-year-old is starting to believe.
Homa played solid, steady golf during a week of cold, wet conditions and a back-and-forth Sunday duel with Keegan Bradley, closing with a 2-under 68 for a two-shot victory in the Wells Fargo Championship.
"All of a sudden last year I get in the top 50 in the world and you start looking around and it's a new crop of people and you start thinking to myself, `Am I as good as these guys?'" Homa said. "So I've always struggled with it, but I have great people around me who bash me over the head telling me that I am that guy. I tried to walk around this week believing that and faking it a little bit until I made it."
With his win last September in Napa, California, Homa joins Scottie Scheffler (four), Hideki Matsuyama (two), Sam Burns (two) and Cameron Smith (two) as multiple winners on tour this season. He has yet to contend in a major, but his next chance comes in his next start, the PGA Championship at Southern Hills.
He also moves to sixth in the Presidents Cup standings, meaning he's in position to earn a return visit this September to the Wells Fargo's usual home, Quail Hollow in Charlotte, North Carolina. Homa got his first career win in 2019 at Quail Hollow, which took the year off as Wells Fargo host while it prepares for the U.S.-versus-International team competition.
"I care about nothing more than making that Presidents Cup team, so I really hope captain Davis Love III was watching today," he said.
TPC Potomac, which last hosted the tour in 2018, held up well despite torrential rain on Friday and Saturday and unseasonably cold temperatures most of the week.
Bradley started the day with a two-shot lead, gave it away on the par-5 second hole and got it back on the par-4 eighth before Homa finally took command for good on the back nine. A bogey on the closing hole gave Bradley a 2-over 72 and a tie for second with Cameron Young and Matt Fitzpatrick.
Bradley led the field in putting under the PGA Tour's "strokes gained" metric, a welcome change for a player who's struggled on the greens for nearly a decade.
"It's the best it's been since I've had the belly putter and it's not even close," he said.
Homa played conservatively Saturday, the toughest scoring day of the week, but was aggressive right away Sunday while keeping his umbrella stowed in his golf bag for the first time since the opening round.
He twirled his 7-iron as he watched his approach on the par-4 first hole settle 8 feet from the hole. A lob wedge to 8 feet on the par-4 fifth was good for another birdie, and a 7-iron inside 10 feet on the par-3 ninth allowed him to turn in 34, 2 under for the day and tied with Bradley, who steadied himself after a nervy start.
Seeking to move high enough in the world ranking to secure a spot in the U.S. Open at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts, the 35-year-old New England native hit a poor shot from a greenside bunker on the par-5 second hole, leading to double bogey. Afterward, caddie Scott Vail asked police to eject a couple of heckling fans.
Bradley rallied with three birdies in a four-hole stretch. But the next two of five two-shot swings between the final pairing belonged to Homa. Bradley found a penalty area right of the 11th green, leading to double bogey. When Homa converted another birdie on the par-4 15th, he had a three-shot lead with three to play.
Homa had to make a 5-footer for bogey on the 16th as Bradley made birdie to move within one. When Homa lagged his birdie putt to tap-in range on 18, it was finally over.
"I putted awesome," Homa said. "When you putt it like I did this week, it's, you know, you almost have to mess up to at least not contend."
Homa won on Mother's Day two weeks after he and wife Lacey announced they are expecting their first child, a boy.
"Sometimes my life feels too good to be true, and this is one of those cases," he said.
Young made six birdies ranging in length from 8 feet to 6 inches in his closing 66 for his third runner-up finish in the 24-year-old's rookie season on tour. Fitzpatrick birdied the 18th to conclude a bogey-free 67.
"I gave myself every chance to shoot something better than that and just didn't quite do it," Young said. "I think I played really well knowing that I had to do something special to have a chance to win and almost did."
The largest galleries of the day belonged to Rory McIlroy, who began the day six shots off the lead and was 3 under through 10 holes. But he stalled from there and closed with a bogey for a 68 to finish alone in fifth, four shots back.
"No complaints with the game," said McIlroy, coming off a runner-up finish at the Masters. "Everything feels pretty solid."
NOTES: Jason Day, the first- and second-round leader, closed with a 70 to finish at 1 under. ... Stewart Cink had the low round on Sunday, a 65 that moved him into a share of ninth place at 2 under.
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Updated May 8, 2022