NAPA, CA – After a long, slow streak in the rain, everything changed in an instant.
Max Homma came down from 33 feet, Danny Willett three times from 3 1/2, and it’s over. With a stunning Ghost Bird exchange in the five-point finishing hole at Silverado Resort & Spa, Homma successfully defended the Fortinet Championship title.
“That was crazy,” he said after the last round of 68 that took him his fifth PGA TOUR win with a shot on Willett and three shots on rookie Taylor Montgomery (64). “I still don’t really know what happened. It was one of those weekends where you had to hang out.”
Homma has now won three times in just over a year and will head to this week’s Presidents Cup at the Quail Hollow Club as the fastest rising player on the US team.
His wife, Lacey, who is expecting the couple’s first child, a boy, in early November, followed the event despite the weather. Although this was Homa’s fifth win and caddy Joe Greiner, it was the first that Greiner’s fiancé, Myla, witnessed. Everyone was planning to board a private jet that would arrive in Charlotte, North Carolina in the dark early Tuesday morning.
For most of a Sunday afternoon in a plump Silverado, it looked like Homma would take second place. He had hit his second shot into the front bunker at 18 when Willett hit his approach tightly. It looked as though Willett, who finished third in the 2015 WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, would have another indelible memory of great play in Northern California.
Then everything changed.
“It was probably the most unexpected ending,” Greiner said. “As a pregnant woman you always expected the unexpected, but as soon as Danny hit his approach three or four feet high, I felt that our chances of hitting the vault were very low. I just asked (Homma) to hit him on target and at least make it forced to win.”
Willett, 34, was nearing his first Tour title since the 2016 Masters Championships. Once his opponent’s third hit from the dugout didn’t reach the green, the course looked.
“The sand was a little wet, and didn’t have much green to work with,” Greiner said. “He was doing his best to spin it as best he could and just a little under it.”
Said Homa, “I had to kind of assume it would work and I kind of went to shoot Hero’s Sanctuary and didn’t quite catch it.” Never mind, going 33 feet away, he nearly raised Greiner’s hand with a five-great as the crowd broke.
Willett smiled, then collapsed.
“I hit it very hard,” he said of his birdie attempt, which flew close to the hole and left him taller than 4 feet 8 inches. “And on the way back…I thought it was more straightforward. Again, yeah, it just ended up going and losing the left.”
He continued, “Yes, a disappointing way to finish, but you know, first of the season, as I said, to compete, things are in a good place. Yes, we will live to fight another day.”
Justin Lower (73, T4) led by a single shot on Sunday, but fell to Homma and Willett in the ninth line of defense. Homma was the favorite, coming off the best season of his career, taking two wins, and advancing to the TOUR Championship for the first time, where he tied for fifth.
But while he was briefly pulling with the sparrows on the 9th, 10th and 11th, he didn’t drive until the 18th.
Tee times were raised due to forecasts, and rain brought relief to drought-stricken Northern California. He also brought Huma Willett to the fore. Homa won the Wells Fargo Championship in May at the rain-soaked TPC Potomac at Avenell Ranch. Willett smiled at the mention of the bad weather. He had a three-shot lead through eight, but made a three-shot bogey in the ninth as Lauer and Homa tied the lead to cut the lead to one.
Homma and Willett withdrew with more sparrows and Laure fell off their pace.
Shot from the back With five, four, three, two, one hole still left, Homa told himself that the moment he tried to force the case would be the moment he got out of the fight. His coach, Mark Blackburn, has called for patience throughout the week. Greiner preached patience all day long. It paid off, albeit in a way no one expected.
After winning the 2021 Fortinet race, Homma admitted that he sometimes had a tough time with self-confidence. This year, even though he was the pre-tournament favorite, he’s been pretty good at it.
“Strangely,” he said, “I felt fine.” “I didn’t feel like there was much pressure.”
Greiner added before they all headed to the airport, “It’s part of Mark and Mark’s deal to tell him how great he is, and on the day he thinks he might not need us at all.”