CHARLOTTE — In his sophomore season on the PGA Tour, Max Homa made the cut in just two of 17 starts and cashed in for $18,008 in 2017.
"I think I made more money in the Pro-Ams on Monday than I did in the tournaments," he joked after his second round in the Wells Fargo Championship.
On Sunday, he won $1.422 million.
Homa, the 2013 NCAA individual champion at California, never cracked despite facing final-round pressure for the first time and won his first PGA Tour title. With a 4-under-par 67, the 417th-ranked player in the world won the Wells Fargo Championship, outlasting a stellar group, including world No. 2 Justin Rose, Sergio Garcia, Rickie Fowler, Jason Dufner, Paul Casey, Joel Dahmen and Rory McIlroy, the only player to win twice at Quail Hollow.
With rounds of 69-63-70-67, Homa finished at 15 under and three shots clear of the field.
Let it all [email protected] wins the @WellsFargoGolf in impressive fashion.
What a day. #LiveUnderParpic.twitter.com/Oo4mQsZqj1
"Over the moon," said Homa, whose victory earned him a two-year Tour exemption and trips to the PGA Championship in two weeks and the Sentry Tournament of Champions, The Players Championship and the Masters next year.
"I have some scar tissue out here," Homa added. "It means a great deal to me to play this well under pressure. And now I have job security."
Dahmen, a cancer survivor who was trying to win his first PGA Tour title, closed with a 70 to finish in second.
"I didn't beat myself today. Max played awesome," Dahmen said. "He's a good friend of mine. I think we'll celebrate tonight."
Rose shot 68 to finish third at 11 under. Garcia (68), Fowler (68), Casey (69) and Dufner (73) tied for fourth at 9 under.
McIlroy's birthday weekend ended on a sour note. After turning 30 on Saturday and shooting 68, McIlroy couldn't get anything going in the final round. His bogey on the ninth and double on the 10th basically ended his chances for victory. He signed for a 73 and tied for eighth, his eighth top-10 in nine starts this year.
Hear from newly-crowned PGA TOUR Champion @MaxHoma23 moments after his win @WellsFargoGolf. https://t.co/rbuPxzTuvY
Because of his record here and fondness for the course, McIlroy was the clear favorite. But Homa's victory was a bigger upset than 65-1 longshot Country House winning the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May. Homa had one top-10 in 14 events this season entering the four-day race around Quail Hollow Club, had missed seven cuts and was 61-over par on the year.
But if Homa is one thing, he's relentless. That word is tattooed on the 28-year-old's right arm, and it's a word he turned to repeatedly during the roughest of times.
"When I played very, very bad two years ago, I just kept thinking about that word (relentless)," Homa said. "I knew I was going to be back out here and I was going to make myself get back out here."
Homa, Dahmen and Dufner were tied for the lead after 54 holes, with McIlroy looming two shots behind and Rose just three from the lead. But Homa assumed control of the tournament with birdies on 5, 7, 10 and 11, not once looking out of place in the final group.
Then he held his nerve with big par-saving putts on 12 and 13 and, after a delay of 62 minutes as torrential rains stormed by, he canned a six-footer for par on the 14th to maintain a three-stroke lead.
After two stout shots to get home in two on the 569-yard, uphill par-5, he two-putted from 70 feet for birdie to extend his lead to four. He played safely on the closing stretch — a brutal three holes called the Green Mile — and ended his win with a par putt from 10 feet and a celebratory shout to the skies.
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