February 17, 2023

Max Homa rides birdie binge into share of first-round lead

When Max Homa won The Genesis Invitational in 2021, he opened with a first-round 66 that included just one bogey in his hometown tournament. Thursday, the Valencia native went even lower, riding a wave of three straight birdies to close out his second nine and shoot a 7-under-par 64 that left him in a share of the first-round lead.

Homa enters Friday tied atop the leaderboard with Keith Mitchell, who birdied seven of his last 13 holes.

Homa has certainly taken to the historic venue at Riviera Country Club, having finished in the top 10 each of the last three years. He credited his low round to his accuracy off the tee and iron play – he hit his approach shots inside 10 feet on each of the last three holes.

“They all started with a great tee shot,” Homa said. “No. 7 is a rather tricky hole. If you hit it in that fairway, you’re going to have a good look at birdie. Eight’s a very hard tee shot, but if you do hit that fairway, especially where the pin was today, it feels like you can attack it. And then 9 is very similar. If you’re in that fairway, you feel comfy. If you’re not, it’s kind of playing defense. So hitting those three fairways, I knew I was swinging it well. My irons felt so good today, it felt like it was just kind of ‘turn your brain off and hit the thing.’”

World No. 3 Jon Rahm sits just one stroke back at 6-under par, with World No. 9 Collin Morikawa, Matt Kuchar and Harris English tied for fourth at 5-under.

Tournament host Tiger Woods also birdied his last three holes, finishing with a 2-under 69 that left him tied for 27th.

Woods was grouped with World No. 2 Rory McIlroy and World No. 9 Justin Thomas, and the galleries truly got behind the trio that owns a combined 21 major championships.

“It was nice that I had this unbelievable pairing – two great guys, two great friends,” Woods said. “The people were obviously very supportive. They were just cheering all of us on, which is great. It just made this whole — this tournament better. I happened to actually hit some good shots finally and made a couple putts.”