All Max Homa asked for was a chance.
Those were Homa’s thoughts before Sunday’s final round of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow Club. Part of a three-way tie for the lead, Homa hoped he might take advantage of that sliver of an opening to claim his first career PGA Tour victory.
Homa took – actually seized – that chance.
Shooting a 4-under par 67 Sunday, Homa finished at 15-under for the tournament, besting fellow tour journeyman Joel Dahmen (70) by three strokes. Justin Rose, the world’s second-ranked player, was third, four strokes behind at 11 under. Then came a cluster of big names tied for fourth at 9 under: Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Paul Casey and Jason Dufner.
None of them mustered any kind of threat for Homa, the 2013 NCAA individual champion at California who lost his tour card in 2017 after making only two cuts.
“Like I’m in a dream, I think,” said Homa, 28, who regained his tour privileges this season. “I didn’t know if this day would ever come.”
Homa gets all that comes with a victory on the tour, including a two-year exemption and a spot in the Masters. A big Los Angeles Dodgers fan, his victory also got him a phone call from former manager Tom Lasorda during the middle of his post-victory news conference.
Sunday’s round didn’t come without some stress for Homa, however. As he prepared to putt for par from 6 feet on the par-4 14th hole, the weather siren went off. Play would be suspended for 62 minutes as a storm moved through the area (there were two delays during Saturday’s play).
“It’s not ideal trying to get your first win having to wait an hour to hit that putt,” said Homa, who looked at the leader board for the first time on the hole. “I knew in the back of my mind if I make the putt, I win this golf tournament.”
Homa made the putt and, after a birdie on No. 15, he would face Quail Hollow’s famed “Green Mile” finishing holes with a four-stroke lead. He gave one of those shots back on No. 16, where he made his first and only bogey of the day. But he made par on No. 17, despite missing the green.
He had no trouble on the nervy 18th hole, hitting his drive straight down the middle, twirling his club confidently after his follow through. He finished off the tournament off by knocking in a 9-foot putt for par.
Dahmen stayed at or near the lead for much of the week. But he lost – and never regained – a share of the lead when he bogeyed No. 9. After the crowd nervously applauded when his 4-foot putt dropped in the side of the cup, Dahmen held up his ball between two fingers and tossed it to a little girl sitting next to the ninth green.
Another bogey on No. 11 probably sunk Dahmen’s chances, although he got that shot back with a birdie on No. 14.
“I was close,” said Dahmen. “I mean, I’m good enough to win out here.”
Two-time Wells Fargo champion Rory McIlroy began the day two strokes behind the leaders and figured to be a factor. He stayed close for a while, before collapsing midway through his round.
After reaching the par-5 seventh hole in two shots, McIlroy three-putted from 21 feet for an unsatisfying par. He three-putted again on No. 9 for bogey and then made double bogey on No. 10. All of a sudden, McIlroy was seven strokes back and out of contention.
Homa grabbed the lead for good when Dahmen bogeyed No. 9, breaking a tie that had lasted for much of the front nine. Homa took full advantage, making birdies on Nos. 10 and 11, opening up a four-shot lead.
Homa was able to stay above the fray, even while several players made runs that, as it turned out, started too late to worry the leader. Rose shot a 3-under 68, but came up four shots short.
Garcia, the 2017 Masters champ who shot a 65 on Saturday, kept it going Sunday. But his 68 was good only for a tie for fourth with Dufner, Fowler (who also shot a 68) and Casey.
Dufner, part of the third-round tie for the lead, shot a 2-over 73 Sunday.