POTOMAC, Md. — As Max Homa headed to the 15th tee of Sunday’s final round of the Wells Fargo Championship one shot ahead of Keegan Bradley, caddie Joe Greiner made sure his message was direct.
“This is your golf tournament, Max,” Greiner said.
Homa had just come off a bogey on the 13th hole and parred 14, which is considered one of the easier holes at TPC Potomac. Greiner decided to provide some extra motivation in hopes of closing the tournament. Homa drove it in the fairway and had a great look at the green after Bradley pulled his approach.
“It was a perfect number for a hard 9-iron,” said Greiner, “and right when he hit that, he felt really comfortable with the lead and was ready to win the thing.”
Homa converted a 12-foot birdie putt on the 15th hole and would go on to win his second Wells Fargo Championship by two shots over a trio of golfers, vaulting up to sixth in the FedExCup Standings in the process.
This is Homa’s fourth victory on the PGA Tour — his second of the season — and it was also an emotional one, being that it is Mother’s Day and he and his wife Lacey recently announced that they were expecting a baby boy.
“The perspective of knowing whether I won or didn’t win, I’m going to have a little boy coming with my beautiful wife,” Homa said. “It’s cool we won, but end of the day that’s going to be the biggest trophy.”
Bradley entered Sunday leading by two shots, but a nervy approach on No. 1 left him with a ticklish chip that he got up and down to start his day. Homa would birdie from eight feet out, cutting his deficit in half.
Bradley then made a mess of the par-5 second hole, as he was unable to get his bunker shot onto the green. When several fans applauded the missed opportunity, caddie Scott Vail scolded them. Following the hole, he even asked security to track down, and kick out those fans.
But with Homa’s par, he was now leading the golf tournament, vaulting from chaser to chased.
Bradley stopped his slide on the fifth hole with a birdie, with Homa facing his first test in the lead and challenged to respond. He matched Bradley’s circle with one of his own.
Both would have peaks and valleys throughout the round, while others on the course started to give chase.
Rory McIlroy made a Sunday charge, getting his score to 5 under, but his chance to make a final push stalled on 18 when he missed the fairway and recorded bogey.
“I had my chances, played the last eight holes in 1 over,” McIlroy said, “which whenever you give yourself a chance and got within 3, obviously not the way you want to finish, but (I) played well.”
Matt Fitzpatrick took advantage of more gettable conditions early and posted a bogey-free 3-under 67, which included a birdie on 18.
“I hit some really good solid shots and got myself out of position a couple of times, 14 and 15 there, but on the whole, I felt pretty stress-free,” said Fitzpatrick. “I didn’t feel like I kind of hit it too bad and managed some putts as well, which is nice.”
Cameron Young had the second-lowest round of the day and also finished at 6 under and two back, but his run at the lead stalled with pars on the final two holes and Sunday makes it three runner-up finishes this season.
“I think I gave myself every chance to shoot something better than that and just didn’t quite do it,” he said. “I think I played really well knowing that I had to do something special to have a chance to win and almost did, but just didn’t quite make the putts kind of in the middle of the round.”
Bradley had his moments and was looking to convert his first 54-hole lead, in this, his fourth try, but the early start was compounded with another double bogey at 11 and bogeys on 15 and 18.
“I didn’t play my best golf today,” Bradley admitted. “It was choppy and then I had a couple good stretches, but I had a chance there at the end, so I’m proud of that aspect of it. I’m pretty bummed, I felt pretty good about this one.”
While Homa’s driver has been his steady weapon of choice all season long, it was the AimPoint putting which really proved to be the difference. There, he ranked fourth this week with 7.596 Strokes Gained: Putting.
Greiner admitted after the round that this was probably the first tournament where he may not have read a single putt all week along and that because Homa was reading the slopes so well with his feet, he just stayed out of the way.
“He was putting so good that I didn’t want to say anything, so it was, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing dude, you’re nailing it right now,'” said Greiner. “It was one of those weeks where he was really feeling the slope and his system was working. If he can become a top-30 putter consistently in the world, he’ll be a top-10 player.”
Homa either was difficult on himself or praising his team when he stated he makes very few decisions when it comes to big-picture matters, but was quick to credit coaches Mark Blackburn and Phil Kenyon, for their assistance in teaching him how to effectively use AimPoint.
“It’s amazing how little things here or there can click,” Homa said. “Whether I came out and putted great this week or not, it didn’t matter as long as it started to look like I was getting better at it. It’s been my kind of bugaboo is my putting just goes in waves.
“It could go in another wave, but I do feel like we’re (going) in the right direction.”
WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP FINAL LEADERBOARD
- Max Homa -8
T2. Keegan Bradley -6
T2. Matt Fitzpatrick -6
T2. Cameron Young -6
- Rory McIlroy -4
T6. Lanto Griffin -3
T6. Stephan Jaeger -3
T6. Anirban Lahiri -3
T9. Stewart Cink -2
T9. James Hahn -2
T9. Brian Harman -2
T9. Mackenzie Hughes -2
T9. J.T. Poston -2
T9. Adam Schenk -2