American Homa captures first US PGA title

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American Max Homa celebrates on the 18th green after making his final par putt to win the US PGA Wells Fargo Championship (AFP Photo/STREETER LECKA)

AMERICAN Max Homa won his first US PGA title on Sunday, holding off major winners Justin Rose and Jason Dufner to capture the Wells Fargo Championship by three strokes.

Homa fired a four-under par 67 at Quail Hollow to finish 72 holes at 15-under 269 on the Charlotte, North Carolina, layout.

The world No417’s best prior US PGA finish came when he took a share of sixth at the 2015 Sony Open in Hawaii.

Homa twice lost his playing rights on the US PGA Tour, making just two cuts in 17 events in the 2016-17 campaign only to earn his way back again for this season and now secure his spot for years to come.

“Over the moon,” Homa said of his feelings. “I have some serious scar tissue from out here. Job security is great man. I haven’t had that before.”

Joel Dahmen, another American seeking his first US PGA title, was second on 272 after a closing 70 with world No2 Rose of England third on 273 and Spain’s Sergio Garcia, England’s Paul Casey, American Rickie Fowler and his countryman Dufner all sharing fourth on 275.

Prior first-time US PGA winners at Quail Hollow included Rory McIlroy in 2010, Fowler in 2012 and Anthony Kim in 2008.

Homa, a 28-year-old former US college champion, missed the cut at the 2013 US Open as an amateur in his only major start but earned a berth in the PGA Championship in two weeks at Bethpage Black.

Rose, the 2013 US Open champion, was looking ahead to his next major test.

“This was an important week for me for sure. I wasn’t quite sure where I was coming in,” Rose said. “The whole week was a struggle but that makes a result like this more pleasing. Hopefully I can click into the long game and the rest of the attributes stay with me.”

Dufner, the 2013 PGA Championship winner, closed with a double bogey to fall back after lurking within reach much of the day.

Four-time major winner McIlroy, twice a champion at Quail Hollow, was a threat entering the final round but struggled to a 73 to share eighth on 277.

Dahmen, ranked 125th, matched his best US PGA finish, a runner-up effort at last year’s John Deere Classic.

“I played pretty well. I just didn’t make any putts,” Dahmen said. “I didn’t beat myself, which was the goal, and Max was playing awesome.”

Mental focus Homa’s key

Homa reached the turn in the lead by one at 13-under after Dahmen closed the front nine with a bogey, with Rose, Dufner and Garcia lurking three back.

Homa sank a 15-foot birdie putt at the par-5 10th and a 13-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th, boosting his edge to three strokes over Dahman.

Three consecutive par putts from just over five feet kept Homa’s lead intact, the last of them coming at 14 after a rain delay drenched the course.

“A little extra added focus,” Homa said. “You’re always focused on Sunday. In this case, there’s a little added pressure and you try to keep your mental focus a bit stronger.

“Focusing on my mental game kept me from worrying about my physical game.”

Homa two-putted from 65 feet at the par-5 15th for a four-stroke lead but found a fairway bunker at 16 on the way to a bogey that left him three up with two to play.

He curled in a tense 11-foot par putt at the par-3 17th and finished with a nine-foot par putt to complete his victory.

McIlroy, this year’s Players Championship winner, could not summon a charge, settling for pars on seven and eight and falling out of contention with a bogey at nine and double bogey at 10.