Homa Comes Home: Los Angeles’ Own Max Homa Aims For Major Breakout At US Open

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Max Homa knows he could walk around Los Angeles Country Club this week like he owns the place.

After all, he’s returning to his hometown to play in the 123rd U.S. Open, and he’s doing it at a hallowed venue where he set the course record with a 61 at the Pac-12 championships a decade ago.

Homa will have big, loud, supportive galleries at this Beverly Hills-adjacent golf haven while he chases his first major title this week. He already tasted that atmosphere Tuesday when he played his practice round with Michael Kim, his college teammate at California when he shot that course-record 61.

“On a regular basis I get people yelling my college if they went there, (but) getting people yelling my high school is different, so that’s been awesome,” Homa said. “It’s just a really great golf course in my favorite city in the world.”

Homa is already one of the most interesting players on the PGA Tour, and his latest return to LA has the potential to be a landmark moment in his career. A personable, loquacious athlete with a stellar social media game and an even better golf game, Homa is only missing his first major victory to cement his elite place in the sport.

But Homa is also an intellectually curious guy who’s eternally trying to master the mental side of golf, and he also recognizes the wave of pressure carrying the potential to swamp him this week.

Even without the hometown spotlight, Homa says he already puts too much pressure on himself in all majors and usually tries too hard, with predictably poor results. So Homa said he has been thinking about this particular week for a full year, training his mind to fixate on the opportunity and the fun instead of the pressure.

He’s not sure it’ll work, but he’s trying.

“It’s really cool that last night I got to have dinner with two of my best friends,” Homa said Tuesday. “My dad was out there walking the practice round today. Stuff like that never gets to happen, so I’m just trying to look at all the great stuff.”

Playing in Southern California doesn’t intimidate Homa: He won at Riviera in 2021 and at Torrey Pines last February, racking up two of his six career victories.

Homa was born in Burbank and grew up in Valencia, a suburb just north of the San Fernando Valley. When UCLA didn’t give him a scholarship, he went north to Cal and had an outstanding career highlighted by that 61 at LACC — a memorable round for many reasons.

“This is why golf is so bad,” Homa said with a smile. “I remember not getting up and down from the front bunker on (No.) 6 for birdie, and I remember three-putting (No.) 8. So I could have shot 59, so that bothers me.

“We’ve all had those days in golf where just everything is clicking,” he added. “It was just really cool that it happened during the Pac-12 championship on this golf course. It’s nice when those things line up when they really matter.”

Homa’s gallery should be rocking for the opening round, because there’s more than one hometown star in the group: The USGA teamed Homa with Collin Morikawa, another native of the Los Angeles suburbs. The two-time major winner, who’s about six years younger than Homa, grew up in La Cañada Flintridge and followed Homa’s path to Cal.

“Every time I come back to LA, it’s my favorite spot in the world,” Morikawa said Tuesday. “It’s always going to be home for me, no matter where I live, no matter where I move to. There’s just that extra added specialness when you’re playing at home, when you’re playing in the state of California for me.”

Morikawa also knows the LACC North Course well from playing in the Walker Cup in 2017. Homa, who lost his PGA Tour card in 2017, watched that Walker Cup from the stands with his mother.

Homa got his card back in 2019 and quickly claimed his first victory in Charlotte. He has grown into a top player with limitless potential, and he would love to reach it with a stellar effort back home on a challenging course that will be even tougher if the weather dries out and the course firms up.

Homa welcomes every difficulty this week can throw at him.

“It’s going to be pretty hard,” Homa said. “Yeah, I think the sun being out is real helpful. A little bit of wind is going to make it spicy. I hope it’s carnage. I hope it’s a typical U.S. Open.”