NEDBANK GOLF CHALLENGE
Max Homa secures historic victory after impressive Sun City debut
Max Homa became the first American to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City since Jim Furyk 17 years ago.
The world No 8 moved to the top of the leaderboard in round two and stayed there for the remainder of the tournament. Halfway through the final round, he was tied with Thorbjørn Olesen at 16-under and victory was far from assured with the Dane having stormed through the front nine in six-under par.
But Homa swung the momentum of the tournament his way with a superb eagle at the par-five ninth hole thanks to a towering three-iron from 220m. It finished 18 feet from the hole and he drained the putt to re-establish a two-shot lead at the turn.
Olesen’s challenge faltered on the back nine, leaving it to fellow Dane Nicolai Højgaard to try to reel the American in. He also failed and finished 15-under.
Homa finished the tournament on a 19-under-par 269 to become the first American to win the NGC since Jim Furyk in 2006, capping a great trip to South Africa for the first time.
“Back home I’m fortunate to get a lot of great support. But I just can’t really get over that I can come across the world to people I’ve never met and they can be this kind and welcoming,” Homa said.
“I had these kids following me all day and they kept boosting me whenever it got tight and they kept cheering my name. I also had the mantra of rather being the lion than the impala in my head.
“And walking up 18 and that ovation was extra special. I just have to give so much credit to this country and the quality of the people.”
Homa started strong and was three-under through eight holes. Despite this, he still had to withstand a strong charge from Olesen, and the key moment came on the iconic par-five ninth hole.
“The shot of the tournament for me was on nine,” Homa said. “If you’d told me I was three under through eight I would’ve thought I’d be leading and I was rather surprised to be tied for the lead with Thorbjørn on the ninth fairway.
“My swing felt good and I wanted to make a statement to myself, so I hit a beautiful three iron on to that green and made a relatively easy putt. It was a good time to hit a great shot.”
Justin Thomas came with a strong final round of 66 to take fourth place on 12 under par. Hennie du Plessis finished as the leading South African in sixth place on 10 under par and on his debut in this tournament.
Homa, who hadn’t played a competitive round of golf for more than a month coming in to Sun City, birdied two of his final four holes to add his name to the long list of great champions of this tournament.
“I walked down that walkway to the ninth green today again and I pictured a plaque with my name on it alongside all the other greats there,” Homa said.
“It’s awesome to add my name to that. This is one of the more memorable weeks I’ve ever had. The safari we had last weekend — I just can’t put it into words. Then to come out here and put the cherry on top is fantastic. I’m excited to get home and see my son. I left when he had two teeth and now he’s got six.” DM