For 10 years, Max Houma has had regrets.
He missed an available birdie on the 6th hole at the Los Angeles Country Club. He took three putts to catch the cup at No. 8.
He finished that round in 2013 with a course-record 61. In his mind, the scorecard might have been written as 59 – it should have been. I could hardly put all that aside by Sunday night.
If Homa can move beyond the past. If only he could loosen his inner obsession with perfection as he faced golf’s most terrifying test. If he can live with the pressures, distractions and expectations of a player from Los Angeles County, he’s in a position to be a star at the US Open, which is a nightmare distance in traffic from public courses, and will play in Valencia. I grew up with
“I decided I’m good enough to win whatever I want,” Homa, who finished Thursday with a 2-under 68, said in a recent interview. “You have to go out and do it.”
Few players have performed as well during this PGA Tour season. Homa is a two-time champion, most recently at Torrey Pines in January and has seven other wins, including a runner-up finish at the nearby Riviera Country Club at the Genesis Invitational. has made it into the top 10.
However, there were some stumbling blocks in major tournaments. He tied for 43rd at the Masters Tournament, but had an even worse performance at the PGA Championship last month. Last year’s PGA Championship was his record for most major appearances, finishing tied for 13th.
But Houma, heading into this week’s British Open, is confident that the course is his game, given his particular skill in high shots and comfort with the 4 and 5 irons that the LACC has demanded for a decade. thought it would be beneficial to
No, he knew his problem this week was probably not technical or mechanical. His most pressing dilemma was calming himself down enough to play in the majors without punishing himself for this or that mistake.
“I feel like I’ve been trying to be perfect when my job didn’t work out in the majors,” he said. “You don’t have to feel or play perfect to compete.”
This approach worked well on Thursday, when he had repeatedly thwarted Houma on the biggest stage. His performance equaled the record for the opening match of a major tournament. He first competed in 2013 when he missed out on the U.S. Open in Merrion.
In a more familiar setting, Homa scored his first birdie on the third hole. On the 6th hole — a 330-yard par 4 that can hamper players with blind tee shots and a green that feels remarkably tight for a region accustomed to sprawl — Houma made a birdie that didn’t happen on the legendary pack. 12 championship rounds. He bogeyed on the 7th hole to bring it back to 1-under but birdied on the 8th, which was another source of misfortune for him. He played the back nine at even par.
When he left the course early Thursday afternoon, he was near the top of the leaderboard, six shots behind Rickie Fowler, who hit the lowest first-round score of 62 in U.S. Open history. (Xander Schauffele followed shortly after with the same score of 62, tying Branden Grace’s major tournament record at the 2017 British Open at Royal Birkdale.)
Scotty Schaeffler, the world’s top-ranked player and member of Homa’s group, finished the round at 3-under. Two-time major champion Colin Morikawa, another star from Southern California, was one over.
In another group, 2020 US Open winner Bryson DeChambeau finished the day tied with Schaeffler, Paul Burgeon and Kim Si-woo.
“Some people will hit the rough, and I think the winner will hit the fairway the most, make the most putts, and hit the green,” DeChambeau said. Houma, who won the British Open with Winged Foot that year, posted an 8-over par in the first round. “Obviously, it’s a simple formula. But again, you have to do it, right? That’s the whole point of the US Open.”
It should be rigorous, added DeChambeau.
Homa, of course, enjoyed Thursday’s game even though he cautioned that it was too early to declare victory. He got off to a tee time on Thursday morning when the course was in soft territory. By Friday afternoon, he warned, the place could be hell.
Few people know that the United States Golf Association favors easy opens.
But the Society’s diabolical concoction will be a problem Friday. Thursday’s greens weren’t too hard and the course was more receptive to strong iron play, but that was just the beginning.
“From the first tee to the last putt I was very receptive and thought today was a round of golf to set me up for the rest of the week,” said Homa after the round. “I think they have that old cliché about you can’t win, you can lose on day one. And I lose a lot of that stuff on day one.”
Perhaps something clicked in the last few weeks as he pondered how to deal with the atmosphere that comes with playing a major tournament near his hometown.
“Obviously there’s more pressure in a way, but that comes from the outside expectation that I’m going to be a favorite right now, which I won’t even quote because the championship is in my backyard,” he said. said in an interview. “It’s just cool on the inside.”
So he focused on simple things like smiling. He wondered what would happen if he treated the British Open preparations as if they were just as fun as the low-stakes regular tour events.
There was nothing he could do, he admitted, to counter what anyone else would think, the cheers that would resound from the galleries, and perhaps even the moans that were hiding.
The strategy was to take it easy, at least as easy as a pro golfer can at the US Open.
After all, he said, “I’m trying to do something I would have forgotten as a kid.”
On Thursday afternoon, he recalled that the 2013 Pac-12 Championship felt like “the biggest event in the world.”
“This is pretty big,” he added.