American golfer Max Homa may not be taking home the winner’s check, but he did get to do some celebrating at Detroit Golf Club.
During the final round of the PGA Tour Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday, Homa skied in a hole-in-one on the Par-3 No. 15 from 140 yards away. Homa’s ball traveled 110 mph and landed on the green before rolling into the cup, marking his second ace on tour.
“I missed every seven to 12 footer of the week, so decided just to aim closer to the hole. It was like a perfect pitching wedge,” Homa said on Sunday. “I made a good swing on it. Couldn’t see it. I’ve made two out here now, couldn’t see either of them, so one day I’d like to see it go in. But it’s cool to hear the roar, especially on that hole, that hole’s awesome. So it was fun.”
Homa added that the excitement of the fans on the hole is quite cool, but emphasized he still wants to “see the thing go in so I can freak out myself.”
He finished tied for 21st on the leaderboard with a -15 score for the tournament. He shot 69, 68, 69 and 67 through four rounds of play.
Rickie Fowler won the tournament after a three way playoff between himself, Collin Morikawa and Adam Hadwin after they each shot -24 through four rounds. The win marks Fowler’s first PGA Championship in 1,610 days.
The final hurdle for Fowler remained crossing the finish line on Sunday. The popular pro was leading entering the final round for the 11th time in his career but had gone on to win just twice in the previous 10 attempts, the most recent stumble occurring when he shot a closing five-over 75 at the U.S. Open two weeks ago, letting Wyndham Clark take the title as Fowler fell to T-5.
But Sunday was different, even when it didn’t look like it would be. After holding the lead much of the afternoon at Detroit Golf Club only to watch Adam Hadwin and Collin Morikawa surge past him late, a birdie on the 72nd hole gave Fowler a four-under 68 to tie him with Hadwin and Morikawa at 24 under. And then a birdie from 11 feet, 10 inches on the first extra hole, the same par-4 18th, gave Fowler that win he’d been so desperately looking for, four years, four months and 29 days since his last.
“It’s hard to put it all into words,” said Fowler, holding his 1-year-old daughter, Maya, on the 18th green. “Obviously, a lot of good stuff this year. I knew it was just a matter of time with how I’ve been playing.”
The overall purse at Detroit Golf Club was $8.8 million. Here are the prize money payouts for each golfer who made the cut in Detroit. Morikawa’s approach on the playoff hole sailed a touch long, causing the ball to skip over the green and land in the rough. His birdie chip attempt landed short of the pin. Hadwin was in position to make birdie but a tough, 22-foot putt curled past the hole, leading to the par.
His final reaction on the 18th green was fitting for Fowler. For as flashy as he looks at times, donned in his Sunday Oklahoma State orange, his preferred nature is understated. The sigh of relief that he let out as he holed the putt is about as expressive as he will get on the course.
From the lowest of lows last summer when he fell outside the top 150 to Sunday’s high at the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Fowler remained the same: even keeled and magnanimous. Through the good but mostly bad over the last two years – Fowler was unchanged.
“I think some people when they go through (struggles), you kind of become like a shell of yourself and you go through maybe some mental torture when you’re playing golf,” said Max Homa, who has endured his share of adversity on the golf course. “He’s just stayed the same Rickie and I think that helps, because then once your game comes back, you’re still comfortable.”
Romano took over the bag last September after Fowler and longtime looper Joe Skovron, a childhood friend and Fowler’s caddie for his entire pro career, split. It was an easy transition, Fowler said, given he and Romano grew up in Murrieta only four years apart and Romano was a talented player of his own.
The switch back to Harmon was critical too. After spending three years working with swing coach John Tillery, Fowler sought out a simpler approach.
“I’m just trying to get back to playing golf rather than worrying and playing golf swing,” Fowler said at the time.
Harmon’s involvement hasn’t been overbearing, but it’s been enough to have influence. Fowler says he’s only seen him in person about four times since they started working together last fall. The frequent phone calls and videos sent back and forth have been crucial.
“He’s the best golf coach out there,” Fowler said. “He does a great job with players, taking what they have and ultimately I think making them the best that they can be with who they are.”
A renewed confidence in his swing set in over the winter. Then he rekindled his putting prowess with the switch to the Odyssey Versa Jailbird in January. Fowler ranks sixth in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green and T29th in SG: Putting this season. At the Rocket Mortgage Classic, he ranked second in Approach and 12th in Putting.
Fowler notched eight top-20 finishes over his next nine starts after switching to the new putter. A missed cut at the PGA Championship briefly stymied the momentum, but he quickly rebounded with finishes of T6, T9, T5 and T13. It led him to say it’s probably the best he’s ever felt about his game earlier this week. Others would agree.
In the two tournaments preceding the Rocket Mortgage Classic, Fowler tied the lowest round in major championship history and then shot the best score of his PGA TOUR career. He followed his first-round 62 in the U.S. Open by taking a share of the lead into the final round. A 75 on Sunday dropped him into fifth place but there were positive signs. Six days later, he shot 60 in the third round of the Travelers Championship.
While Fowler faltered, going 10 straight holes settling for pars on a relatively easy course, Morikawa had four birdies on both the front and back nine. Morikawa made a 10-foot putt at No. 12, his fourth birdie in a six-hole stretch that put him within a shot of Fowler, and his 9-footer for birdie at No. 14 pulled him into a tie with Fowler at 23 under.
Monday qualifier Peter Kuest (65), Lucas Glover (65) and Taylor Moore (67) were tied for fourth at 21 under. Kuest, who started the week ranked 789th in the world, did well enough to earn a spot in this week’s John Deere Classic in Illinois.
Play was suspended Saturday for 1 hour, 42 minutes because of lightning and the schedule for the final round was adjusted due to inclement weather in the forecast. The leaders teed off Sunday morning about 5 hours before the original schedule with threesomes starting on both the front and back nine.
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