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Max Homa is having the best year of his career, but he hadn't pulled this off in 2023 until now

November 10, 2023
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Max Homa hadn't played competitive since the Ryder Cup, but now has a share of the 36-hole lead at the DP World Tour's Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Richard Heathcote

The proverbial “working vacation” is how Max Homa probably pictured his trip to South Africa upon agreeing to play in the DP World Tour’s Nedbank Golf Challenge. And the emphasis likely was on the vacation part as Homa shared pictures on social media of the safari that he and his wife took, along with fellow PGA Tour pro Justin Thomas and his spouse, ahead of this week’s tournament at Gary Player Golf Club in Sun City.

As for the idea of contending in the tournament, well, Homa, despite being ranked eighth in the world, didn’t sound like he gave himself much of a chance. The 32-year-old Californian had never played the course before and had a Tuesday practice round wiped out by rain. And then there’s the fact he hadn’t played competitive golf at all since the Ryder Cup in five weeks ago, the longest break he has taken in his professional career.

“Mildly shocking” was how he described his opening-round 66—in his typical self-deprecating style—in which he grabbed a share of the lead.

“I learned I can be uncomfortable and play well, which is cool," Homa said after his bogey-free round. "Sometimes golfers, and myself in particular, try to feel as perfect as possible going into events, and I felt far from that. I knew it wasn't going to be perfect, so I think I had a nice game plan and tried to settle me into feeling a little bit off out there and almost dumb it down a little.”

On Friday, Homa wasn’t as hot with his putter, but still managed to post a four-under 68 to remain atop the leaderboard along with Matthieu Pavon. The more interesting part about his performance is the fact that it was another bogey-free round. Despite having the best season of his career in 2022-2023—winning twice, with 13 top-10 finishes and $10.7 million in earnings—not once had he played his first two rounds bogey-free.

It turns out you have to go back to the 2022 WM Phoenix Open to find the last time Homa, a five-time PGA Tour winner has played the opening 36 holes of a tournament without a square on his scorecard.

"I'm very pleased, a little surprised, pleasantly surprised,” Homa said. “It's been nice, the body's feeling better as the week's gone on.”

Indeed, Homa said he’s finally starting to feel acclimated to the area, which could the issue for the rest of the field over the weekend. Now that Homa is comfortable and in contention, a first career win on the DP World Tour (after playing in 14 events, including majors and co-sanctioned tournaments with the PGA Tour) seems within his grasp.

"I woke up today and felt like a golfer again, so that was nice. It's a real dream. If you fly 20-odd hours over here, you may as well play some good golf. So it's nice that I'm doing that."

It's also nice that the DP World Tour social media team is making good use of the very humorous Homa. Check out this post from earlier in the week where Homa does a fashion review.