Max Homa: Golf’s Social Media Star-Turned-Masters Contender

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Max Homa has a Twitter feed that reads like a “Saturday Night Live” script.

The world’s fifth-ranked player is quick-witted, cheeky and self-deprecating, and his one-liners zing hard and fast and with about as much destruction as a skulled 3-iron.

Take the time Homa arrived for the Sony Open, and a lovely card was waiting to welcome him to Oahu’s south shore. It read: “Aloha Max Honma. Welcome to Hawaii.” He tweeted a picture of it and said simply: “Play better.”

Indeed, given how well Homa’s playing these days, you’d think everyone would know how to spell his name. He’s won five times since holding off the equally affable Joel Dahman to win the Wells Fargo Championship in 2019, including another Wells Fargo title last year and a victory at the Farmers Insurance Open in January.

Homa’s brilliant golf game has suddenly matched his social media savvy.

With it comes heightened expectations of competing for a green jacket at the Masters this week.

“As you start to play better, expectations come up. And expectations, I would imagine for any walk of life — but especially athletics — is kind of the devil,” Homa said.

“When you’re, let’s just say, 50th in the world, and you come to a major, if you play great, everyone is like, ‘Oh, of course. He’s a great player.’ And if you don’t play great, no one notices.”

Homa is the first to admit he hasn’t played well in majors. Patrick Cantlay is the only player ranked higher in the world without a win, and unlike him, Homa’s barely come close. He has missed eight cuts in 13 starts — two in three tries at Augusta National — and his best finish is a tie for 13th at last year’s PGA Championship.

“It’s a work in progress,” Homa said, “but also, I’m starting to learn everyone is a work in progress, so that’s been kind of nice. You play this game, you think you’re the only one going through things, and it’s not the case. Everyone has their own battles going on in their head. Confidence is awesome when you have it; when you don’t, it feels like it’s impossible to get back.”

That perspective makes sense when you consider the yo-yo ride Homa has been on as a professional. He only needed one year to graduate from the Tour to the PGA Tour, then lost his card and headed right back. Homa qualified again for the PGA Tour, then missed 15 of 17 cuts to lose his card again in spectacular fashion.

“Had a few caddies hit me up recently hoping to team up,” Homa tweeted during that disastrous 2017 season, when he made exactly $18,008. “They heard they usually get weekends off which is apparently a great selling point.”

Making money is a better one.

And to be sure, Homa and his caddie — longtime friend Joe Greiner — have made plenty lately. The turning point came late in 2018, when Homa finished the Tour season on a tear. The momentum carried into his PGA Tour return, and his win that May at the Wells Fargo earned him $1,422,000. Homa hasn’t slowed down since.

Nor has his Twitter feed, which exploded from about 30,000 followers back then to about 560,000 today.

It’s a far cry from the 6.6 million of Tiger Woods or the 3.2 million of Rory McIlroy, but it’s also a whole lot funnier.

Homa’s account really gained steam after the Presidents Cup, when a Twitter user asked Homa to critique a video of his swing. Homa light-heartedly roasted it, and one critique became two and became a flood of them:

— “Prepared to quit the game completely,” one amateur said with his video, to which Homa replied: “Trust ur gut.”

— “Pretty sure anything would help,” another grumbled, to which Homa answered: “Yes literally anything.”

— Fellow pro J.T. Poston’s caddie, Aaron Flener, tweeted video of his boss, who challenged Homa to “do your worst.” He dutifully replied: “I’d rather roast the real JT. Boom roasted.” (The “real JT” being two-time major winner Justin Thomas.)

“He’s got some good comebacks,” said Brett Schremmer, who played college golf in Nebraska and now works in the Houston area, and who also might be Homa’s biggest fan. He has been tweeting Homa daily in the hopes of playing with him, and while they’ve had some interactions, his persistence has been unsuccessful — the eve of the Masters was Day 269.

Homa did respond last Christmas, though, when Schremmer sent a video of his swing during a batch of roasts.

“UR not as creepy looking as I thought you’d be,” Homa replied. “Still not playing tho.”

“He’s been through it all,” Schremmer said, explaining his fandom. “He’s a prime example of hard work paying off.”

That hard work, both mental and physical, has led Homa to this week. He find himself among the favorites at the Masters, where more patrons than ever are recognizing him, and not just for his Twitter sass.

“If I don’t play well this week, it does not mean I’m not a great golfer,” Homa said, “and I’ve been telling myself that pretty much every week. So as much as I know that this is not just any other event, I also have been practicing, essentially, mentally treating each event the same. And I’ve had good success. So I don’t see why that would not continue to happen.”