Max Homa Wishes He Could Be as Mellow as His Golf Swing

Ahead of this week's hometown U.S. Open in Los Angeles, one of golf's coolest characters weighs in on the PGA Tour-LIV merger, dealing with Twitter trolls, and playing close to home.
Max Homa Wishes He Could Be as Mellow as His Golf Swing
Photographs: Getty Images; Collage: Gabe Conte

By any measure, this ought to be one of the most exciting golf weeks of Max Homa’s life. The U.S. Open tees off on Thursday on the North Course at the Los Angeles Country Club, where the SoCal-raised Homa—playing in the Pac-12 Championship for Cal in 2013—fired a course-record 61. 

There were some bumps in the road from there to here, though. Homa lost his PGA Tour card after 2015, got it back, and lost it again when he missed 15 of 17 cuts in 2017. After much grinding, Homa got back to the big tour in 2019, and that year he claimed the first of his six tour victories. Along the way, he emerged as an unusually chatty and accessible millennial in a sport not known for connecting with younger generations. And then the wins started coming in bulk. Homa won his hometown Genesis Invitational at Riviera Country Club in L.A. in 2021 and added another SoCal win at Torrey Pines, in San Diego, this season. Homa hasn’t yet contended in a major, but the golf cognoscenti think it’s only a matter of time—and this latest home game is an obvious big moment for him. He would like, very much, to talk about the thrill of playing in the U.S. Open where he grew up. 

But professional golf has a way of thwarting expectations. The day before we speak, a tiny group of golf officials and leaders of Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund turned the PGA Tour, Homa’s workplace, on its head. The tour’s link-up with the parent of its blood rival LIV Golf was a shock to virtually every PGA Tour player—including Homa, who learned about it when the rest of us did. As Homa predicts to his 580,000-some followers on Twitter, shortly before we get on the phone: 

Homa gets on the line around lunchtime and says hello. 

I start in: “So Max, with the U.S. Open in L.A., and you being from right up the road with a solid track record in California, what do you think about the PGA Tour and PIF partnering up for the foreseeable future?” 

He starts laughing about halfway through. 

“That’s well done,” he says. “Thank you.Yeah, I'm excited to play the U.S. Open in Los Angeles. I'll say that.”

Homa talked with GQ about his first impressions of the deal that’s poised to change his sport forever, his efforts to make golf more accessible, his outrageously zen swing, and getting emotional about golf in L.A. The rest of our conversation follows, with light edits for clarity. 

GQ: From what you’ve learned so far, are you confident in this [PGA Tour-PIF] plan? How are you feeling about it? 

Max Homa: I’m not going to sit here and say I'm some kind of well-informed person, but we had a lot of discussions [the day the news broke], and there's more to information than social media. There's a lot of headlines. In general, when you read just the top, it's confusing, and then you usually skip the next part. 

We are fortunately in a lot of these meetings where they explain a lot of things, and I trust all the people involved. I do think it's a good thing, and it's a bummer that it's come before the U.S. Open, and then the news cycle is going to crush an event I've looked forward to for a pretty long time. 

But such is life, and I guess such is the news.

Has anything about it—the crush of quick information, the process behind it, or the business partnership with the Saudi PIF—bothered you? 

I don't know if I processed it that far. Just the shock and awe of waking up to it like everyone, that was quite odd. It's hard. In these types of situations, from the seat that I sit in, it's better to let it breathe a little bit and wait for information to come out rather than do what I guess my visceral reaction was, which was just to be annoyed that I didn't know. 

But I mean, shoot, five people on the planet knew. The gall I'd have to have to say that I should have been one of those five would be quite crazy. I just think you got to put it in the decanter, let it breathe a little bit, and give it some time.

In response to the competition it’s encountered lately, the PGA Tour has put a bigger premium on letting us all in the media and the public have some more access to players. You did what I think was the first mid-round walk-and-talk interview in tour history earlier this season, at an event you won. Was that your idea? Did it sound insane when you first considered it? 

It wasn't all my idea by any means. One of the tour officials, Andy Pazder, came to me with this video from Major League Baseball. It was Trea Turner when he was on the Dodgers, the good old days, and he was doing a mic’d up moment while he was in the infield, and it was cool. You'd seen it before, but he also had a ball come to him at that moment. He fumbled it a bit, ended up getting the guy out, and they asked him about it. I found it really interesting, because it's a sport I watch quite often. I love baseball, and I learned something, and I've always thought that mic’d-up thing that we had been doing prior was a bit invasive. It was too long, and you weren't going to get players to do it just because of that.

I am also a fan of the game and have been since I was a little kid. Access and knowledge is so awesome, and we are not a sport that is as exciting as football, right? The NFL has action 24/7. Golf, it's four days for crying out loud. There's a lot of dead time where it's not just blisteringly exciting. There's a lot of holes, I think, to have these moments of access. I did not think it was crazy. 

This term "grow the game" gets thrown around, and I don't think anybody even knows what it means, really. My take on that is if you're a fan of the game of golf and you are watching professional golf, I'd like you to leave satisfied and possibly learn a bit about what high-level golf is, so that when you go play golf yourself, you have a bit of a better idea.

Another part of the accessibility story is that you seem to like playing golf, and even being filmed playing golf, with players who are not on the PGA Tour. You play with a lot of YouTubers and podcasters. What does it do for you to play golf with civilians who you have to spot, I don’t know, 40 strokes? 

I just love golf fans. The fact that these other groups of people are using a platform to boost golf is heartwarming. I enjoy beating them as well. That's also part of it on camera; that's always quite nice. I don't know, I just like it. It does warm my heart a bit. These guys pushing the envelope of golf forward, new avenues to get more people involved in the game or enjoying the game, I think that's awesome. As professional golfers, we get caught in our bubble. Golf is so, so exponentially bigger than professional golf. Professional golf is this tiny little portion of it. Yes, it's on TV, but many people are also playing golf while we're on TV, rightfully so. I just appreciate when people have that kind of love for the game and want golf at large to succeed.

Not everyone you interact with online is like that. You are a personal favorite of pro-LIV Golf troll accounts and others who like to poke holes in your resume, for example. Some players would ignore that altogether, but you don’t. Do you mind them? 

I go through waves. Today, these past couple weeks, I'm in a really good head space about it. Then there's weeks during a major, the last couple that I haven't played well in, where I guess I'm more fragile, and I don't do the best job of just looking away. It does kind of bug me at times, but I have these realizations: If I had nobody saying that I'm not as good as people say I am, and that I'm whatever, then I probably wouldn't be doing a great job, because everybody has people telling them that they stink at what they do when they're somewhat public.

Do I mind it? I mean, to an extent, yeah. To another extent, no. But at the end of the day, I ignore hundreds to thousands of these comments, and every once in a while, I'll just see a layup where I can maybe say something funny. And I know it doesn't change anything, but after you look at enough of them, I think you're vulnerable to let one seep through to the effect of you're going to respond. 

Also, those people just want attention, and that's OK. I'm happy to give some of them that every once in a while. I'm sure it makes them happy that I've responded. But at the same time, it almost feels therapeutic just to speak your mind or make a joke about them and then get back to your life.

I'm sure that every major is a significant buildup, but would it be right to assume that this one in L.A. is maybe a touch extra for you, in terms of anticipation?

Yeah. I would say it's different than how other people have framed it. People are making me out to be a favorite to win, and that this is my chance, and this and that, and I'm not so keen on that. 

Once I heard however many years ago that LA was going to be hosting a major, I just remember thinking how badly I need to be in that event, because to be from the area and get to play a major in your hometown, I just can't imagine something much cooler than that in my job—other than winning the damn thing. I just anticipated getting to do it. Having the support I had at Riviera this year was insane, and I can't imagine what it would be like at a major, so that's where my anticipation is.

I'm very excited to go there. I played a tournament there and had great success there, so all of that's cool, but it's 10 years ago. I'm just excited to get to play in front of all my friends and family and people who are from my little area. I don't think I ever pictured playing a major in my hometown. I just find that to be really exciting.

You're being modest, of course, about great success. You had the most success that anybody has ever had on that course. 

I beat everybody, so I’ll say that. 

As the course record-holder, do you get special treatment when you go back? 

You do not. But I have been back two times. I’ve fortunately had people host me. Yeah, it's cool. Anytime you go to a golf course where you’ve had your career best, it's always fun walking around, ‘cause all those memories of shots pop back up. 

I've been thankful that people have brought me back out, but no: You do not get any kind of special treatment. Every once in a while someone will be like, "Oh, I was there for your round, and it was great," and that's cool. Other than that, you’ve still got to tee up on 1 and hole out on 18.

I'm not technically qualified to comment on your swing, but your relaxed tempo jumps out to lots of people. Sometimes a golf swing is reflective of a personality. Jon Rahm can be a bit hotheaded, and his swing looks violent and physical. Maybe it’s silly, but are you like your golf swing?  

Oh, man. I'm trying to be more what my golf swing looks like. I wish I could be as mild-mannered and even-keeled. Just for me, I’m [physically] blessed in a way that, for golf, I have “long levers,” as my coach says. I don't need to use a lot of bursts and violence to get the ball moving quite a decent ways. I've just always tried to have an under-control golf swing, and I appreciate you noticing that, and I thank you for that compliment. It doesn't sound crazy. I'm actually going to maybe use that one: Start trying to act like my golf swing looks, and be kind of smooth and unbothered.

Going slower and more under control is a thing that every golfer sometimes tries to do, or reminds themself to do. Was there something that you had to unlock when you were coming up that helped you keep your swing under control?

The awareness of where power comes from is a big thing. It doesn't come from the top of your golf swing. It obviously comes from the bottom, when you actually hit the dang ball. Just that awareness has helped. My coach and I hammer in that all my bad swing issues come from when I yank it from the top.

Then I have my little swing cues, my ideas, but I try to let gravity and physics do a lot of the club movement stuff. At the bottom, if I need to smash it, I try to do it from there. I've just been surrounded by a lot of smart people who have helped me kind of cater to that smooth thought, and that's typically my main swing key.

“All my bad swing issues come from when I yank it from the top. At the bottom, if I need to smash it, I try to do it from there.”

Maddie Meyer/PGA of America/Getty Images

Not to try to make you sad, but after the tournament at Riviera this year, I thought it was striking that you were crying after finishing second in a non-major that you’d already won. And in the Presidents Cup, a big team tournament, you were quite fired up to be there. I am sure the millions are good too, but is it right to interpret that you live and die by the results of regular tournaments in a way that stands out? Or does it just look that way from afar? 

I would say it just looks that way from afar. I don't live and die as much by results. L.A. was a unique one this year, because I was incredibly proud of my golf game. I mean, shoot, I got beat by Jon Rahm, and I went toe to toe with him for a while. It was more that I caught my family and friends waiting for me after. I hadn't seen them yet, and when I won L.A. in '21, [still in the pandemic], no one was there.

I just really wanted that moment. We could say, obviously, majors are the biggest thing in golf, but I would say that some players have events that mean a ton to them, like a major would, and L.A. is that for me. I grew up going there. That’s my home of golf. As a kid, when you picture winning that golf tournament, you picture getting to celebrate with all of your friends. The first one, I got to celebrate with [my caddie] Joe [Greiner], which was great, but everything else was just via the phone. I really wanted to do it while they were there. 

The other times, it's not that I'm living and dying, but I do think that I've seen a lot of what this game has to offer in a bad way. You can get going in some bad spots, and I've been in some pretty awful years. I just think that I put a lot of my energy, I would say mostly all of it, into being the best golfer I can be. There's just times when you either win or come up short—I just call them emotional releases, where all of that work and effort takes over when things are done.

I'm going to try my best to hold it in better, but sometimes it's hard for me because, I don't know, if you told me in 2017 that I'd be playing in a Presidents Cup making a big putt to win a match for my country, it would be kind of a fairytale. I just think that somewhere in my head, I have that understanding.

Was the Presidents Cup your big “I’m finally through the grind, and I’ve made it” moment? Was it playing St. Andrews with Tiger Woods at the 150th Open? Was it winning your first tournament? 

That's a great question. I've had a lot of them. Making that President's Cup, of all of those, that was kind of the most fairytale. I think I could have imagined winning a golf tournament. I think I could have imagined playing golf with Tiger, even at The Open at St. Andrews. But it was hard for me to think, as much as I wanted to, about a Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup team. To be there and get to be with those guys and be in the same room and all of that, I just feel like that almost was—obviously, I have a lot more goals that I'd love to accomplish, but I don't know. That was just one of those where I looked around, and I was like, "Damn, I did something pretty cool to get here from whatever it was, five, six years prior."

Do you still lie in Ubers about what you do, or have you had to give that up? 

I don't think I'm abnormal, and a lot of people do that. I guess not really. Sometimes it's just fun to not talk about your own job. It's not a golf-specific thing. Ever since the LIV stuff has come up, I will say that I don't ever want to preach that I play professional golf, because so much then gets asked about the golf landscape, and it's just not the best thing to do in an Uber with a stranger. I guess I haven't gone down the real estate route in a while, because that one got a little too real.