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Ken Borland

The services of his rolodex may not be required, but Homa’s eagle at 9 to win NGC will live long in the memory

Posted on November 12, 2023 by Ken

Max Homa of the United States with the trophy as he celebrates his four-shot victory in the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on Sunday.
(Photo by Warren Little/Getty Images)

Max Homa probably won’t actually enlist the services of a rolodex when it comes to remembering his magnificent approach shot on the ninth hole at Gary Player Country Club on Sunday, but the winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge left no doubt that his superb three-iron that led to a defining eagle will live long in his memory.

And also in the history of the tournament as Homa’s second from 240 yards landed 18 feet from the pin on the iconic ninth green and he rolled in the eagle putt. With Thorbjorn Olesen having just claimed his sixth birdie of the front nine to catch the American on 16-under-par, the eagle gave Homa a crucial two-shot buffer as the back nine beckoned.

“The second on the ninth was the shot of the tournament for me,” Homa said after clinching an impressive four-shot victory, his great final round of 66 taking him to 19-under-par.

“My coach [Mark Blackburn] always says I must have a rolodex of big moments to look back on and that was definitely one for the memory bank.

“I had a good lie in the semi-rough and a good number, and I hit a great three-iron. If you don’t get the ball very high in the air here then the elevation doesn’t help as much and it was a bit shorter than I wanted.

“But it was one of those shots you dream about and a really great time to hit a good shot. I was three-under at the time but still tied for the lead, which shows how impressively Thorbjorn played.

“I wanted to make a statement to myself and not back off. I didn’t need to play that shot because I was sharing the lead, but I knew I could make it. My caddy [Ben Marsh] said if I feel it then I must just go for it, and then I sunk a great putt,” Homa said.

The on-fire Olesen also birdied the par-five 10th hole from close range and the Dane was back level again when Homa bogeyed the par-four 11th, his approach being too far left and two chips being required to get on to the green.

But the class of the world number eight then shone bright as a beacon, almost like the giant star that is traditionally lit up on the hill overlooking Sun City as the festive season kicks into gear.

Olesen (-14) and Nicolai Hojgaard (-15) both missed key chances in the closing holes and Olesen surrendered second place to his compatriot when he double-bogeyed the 17th, missing a short putt for a five on the famous par-four, having found the fairway bunkers with his drive.

What Homa later described as a “humungous stroke of luck” saw his errant drive on the 14th hit a rules official’s cart parked on the pathway next to the fairway, preventing the ball from bouncing into the think Pilanesberg bush. He was able to par the par-five and then a seven-foot birdie on the 15th put Homa two ahead, and an unlikely birdie on the par-three 16th, when he rammed in a 38-foot putt, sealed the deal.

Fellow American Justin Thomas also shot a 66 on Sunday to soar up the leaderboard into fourth place on 12-under-par, while DP World Tour rookie Dan Bradbury finished fifth on 11-under, the rubble of three bogeys and a double-bogey on the par-four 11th being too much to sustain a challenge despite his six birdies.

The removal in recent times of American contenders from the Nedbank Golf Challenge – Jim Furyk being the last United States golfer to win in 2006 – has certainly taken some of the gloss off the tournament, but Homa was appreciative of the history of Africa’s Major and delighted to now be part of its legacy.

“I’m big into manifesting and there are some pretty big names on the plaques of all the winners around the ninth green – Seve Ballesteros and Ernie Els are greats of the game. So I was picturing my name on one of those plaques and to achieve that, especially straight after Tommy Fleetwood, who is one of my favourite people on the planet, is really special.

“I know Tommy really wanted to win three in a row, but he got us at the Ryder Cup and now I’ve got one on him,” a grinning Homa said.

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