A chip-in birdie plus an opponent’s astonishing three-putt allowed Max Homa to defend his title at the Fortinet Championship on Sunday in Napa, Calif.
Homa and Englishman Danny Willett began the day one stroke off Justin Lower’s lead at the PGA Tour season opener, and Willett led Homa by one shot as they played the par-5 18th hole at the North course at Silverado Resort and Spa.
Homa couldn’t get onto the green from a nearby bunker on his third shot. But his fourth shot bounced in the right direction, rolled right into the flagstick and dropped for birdie to get Homa to 16-under 272.
Willett had two chances to make par or better to secure the win. His birdie putt, from inside 4 feet, flew past the hole by 4 feet and 8 inches. The 2016 Masters champ then missed the comebacker and bogeyed his way out of the title.
“That was crazy. I still don’t really know what happened,” said Homa, who will play for the Americans at next week’s Presidents Cup in Charlotte. “Just kind of one of those weekends you just had to hang around.”
Willett said he “expected” Homa to make the chip-in birdie and took the defeat in stride.
“I hit it obviously far too hard. And on the way back from where (playing partner Lower) was coming from, I thought it was straighter,” Willett said. “Yeah, disappointing way to finish, but you know, first out of the season, like I said, to be in contention, things are in a good place. Yeah, we’ll live to fight another day.”
Homa shot a 4-under 68 for his final round. Willett carded a 3-under 69 to wind up alone in second at 15 under.
“He is obviously a tremendous golfer,” Homa said of Willett. “He’s won the Masters, he’s won I think eight times in Europe. He’s just a very talented dude and has a great attitude. You can see why he’s had so much success. So it’s always fun being around someone like him where you can watch kind of greatness in golf.
“Yeah, he composed himself unbelievable today, never buckled really. And then on the last, obviously that’s not the way anybody could foresee it going, but still just a really classy guy.”
Homa committed his only bogey of the day at the par-3 second and recovered to make five birdies.
Taylor Montgomery shot the round of the day, an 8-under 64, to shoot up to third place at 13 under. Lower faded with a 73 and tied for fourth at 12 under with South Korea’s Byeong Hun An (71).