NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Max Homa knew he had no choice but to go for it on the par-5 18th…
NAPA, Calif. (AP) — Max Homa knew he had no choice but to go for the par-5 18th hole if he wanted to defend his title at the Fortinet Championship. A stroke behind Danny Willett, he went for the green in two but found himself in a tough spot in the bunker, short of the green. It exploded, but it still didn’t end up on the court.
Homa stayed aggressive and it paid off this time, chipping his chip from 33 feet into the hole for the closing birdie. However, all Willett had to do was convert his own birdie from close range – and he didn’t.
Willett hit his 3-foot-7 shot too hard. He touched the lip and ran 4 feet 8 inches. Then his comebacker broke to left, hit the lip and was also out, completing the shocking collapse that made Homme the winner again in Napa.
“It was crazy. “I still don’t know what happened,” said Homa, a college star in California who now has three wins in Golden State. “Kind of one of those weekends you just had to have.”
Homa high-fived his caddy when his chip shot hit the flag and fell. Moments later, he became a five-time PGA Tour winner.
“What things happen. Luckily we’ve been in a good position all week and then unfortunate things happen when you feel like you need them the most,” said Willett, who did not win in the United States after taking advantage of Jordan Spieth’s collapse to win the Masters 2016.
Willett holed out 65 yards from the 18th green and then got so close that closing out the tournament should have been routine.
“It’s a shame how it ended, but I’m pretty sure those are the only short shots we’ve conceded all week. Just regret doing it when I did. One of their things. Sometimes you want to rewind time. We learn from this and move on,” he said.
Homa struggled with his stick over the weekend, but he didn’t need it in the end.
“I hit it well today, kept it around the hole where it needed to be, I just couldn’t get the ball to go home,” he said. “At 18, he decided to come home early, so that was a pretty nice bonus.”
Homa finished with a 4-under 66 for a 16-under 272 total and now heads to Charlotte, North Carolina, as captain for the Presidents Cup, having won three in the past 12 months. Willett shot a 69. Taylor Montgomery was tied for third at 13 under after a final 64.
Homa Lacy’s wife had no idea what he had done, but rushed to hug her husband. She is pregnant with their first child, a boy, due on November 2nd.
“I’m in shock right now,” she said. “I didn’t see what was happening.”
The leaders added nearly four hours to their playing time trying to get through the round before the north course at Silverado Resort & Spa became completely unplayable. The greens, which at the beginning of the week were firm and fast from the sun and wind, suddenly became quite the opposite, slow and soft from all the water.
Justin Lower led by one stroke going into the final day, chasing his first title after years of fighting just to get his tour card. The 33-year-old American tied for fourth with Byung Hun Ahn at 12 under after shooting a 1-over 73.
Willett birdied three holes on the front nine to take the three-stroke lead, only to miss a short putt on the par-5 ninth when Lower birdied to fall back one stroke.
Homa and Willett began the first day of shooting in Nizhny. All three players bogeyed the par-4 10th.
On the par-4 14th, Willett made a wonderful birdie. His tee shot landed behind a tree and then he circled the ball to the backside of the fairway before sinking a 5-foot putt.
On the front nine, Willett bogeyed Nos. 1, 4 and 8 — making a 7-footer for birdie on the par-4 eighth — while Lower made bogey.
Willett, 34, of Sheffield, England, kept it loose, laughing with his caddy and smiling between holes in far from ideal conditions in California’s famed wine country: wind and heavy rain the first three holes, a brief respite, then more rain. He regularly toweled his hips and wiped his shoes before putting on and taking off his black sleeveless vest.
The weather contributed to a tight gallery of umbrella wielders willing to brave the elements.
“That’s what I came to California for,” Willett smiled at the start of the final round.
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