SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Max Homa is one of the better quotes in golf and he proved it once again at his Wednesday pre-tournament news conference at the 2024 WM Phoenix Open.
Having only gotten in five holes during the celebrity pro-am before heavy rains halted the affair, Homa walked down the ramp under the clubhouse at TPC Scottsdale to the media center, where he doled out one gem after another.
Homa was easily engaged in conversation about the Strategic Sports Group’s ambitions, making golf more appealing to a younger demo and the 16th hole craziness. He even admitted that one day, he could see himself among the fans, partaking in the fun in all its forms at the tournament.
Here are some of his best comments:
Benefits of a home game
A native of Los Angeles, Homa has lived in Scottsdale for several years, so he gets to sleep in his own bed this week.
“One major perk is my son can sleep in his room, and we know where everything is. Last week with the power going out, for example, at Pebble, we were in a house with the Morikawas and we don’t have all of his toys, and now you’re just full-blown entertaining a one-year-old in a house that’s not baby-proofed, and it’s chaotic. So we have at least that going for us this week. I do not go outside of my house other than to the golf tournament this week. It’s a little bit busy.”
Playing golf in the rain
“I guess I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t annoying, but I don’t think that that means it isn’t fun. I’ve always enjoyed playing the Open Championship, and I think a big part of it is because you assume the weather is going to be terrible. I also think the golf courses are tailored to bad weather a little bit more than in America. I enjoy it. I actually like when it rains. I like when it’s windy. I like when it’s miserable because I do think a lot of the players or a handful of players are just going to be over it. I’m from Los Angeles where it also doesn’t rain a whole lot, and I enjoyed as a kid, same as yours, when it rained because I got excited to go to the golf course and practice hitting golf balls when it was wet.
“I think I still have a lot of that joy, but it’s also annoying. The umbrella back and forth and all that gets old. But I’ve done pretty well in the rain for a kid from southern California. I would say I must enjoy it somewhere deep down.”
What's the craziest thing you've seen at this tournament?
“Oh, that’s a good question. Man, I might have already told this story. I don’t know if this is the craziest thing I’ve seen, but it was like my indoctrination into the WM Phoenix Open.
“My first year playing here I think was in ’19. I teed off the 10th hole and walk off the tee box and there’s a massive already like congregation of people walking to 16. As everyone knows at this tournament there’s a handful of golf fans and then a handful of people who like to party around a golf tournament. There were two women in front of me, and it was kind of blocked off with all the people across the cart path to the fairway, and I said, ‘excuse me,’ and they looked at me and basically gave me the I-have-a-boyfriend look, and I said ‘excuse me’ again, and then they kind of looked at me again and I started to laugh because I was like, I guess what this event is. I said, ‘I’m playing. I will not be jumping your line; I just need to go over here.’
“It’s just I guess the general theme of this event is when you want to take a break from eating and drinking and laughing and having fun with your friends, you might see some golf shots. I think it’s awesome. I think it’s great. I’ve probably seen crazier. I’ve seen a lot more inappropriate. That always seems to be the safest story I can tell.”
The tee shot on 16 is actually not the hardest one to hit
“The two hardest shots are the tee shot on 11 and the tee shot on 17; 15 is not nearly as bad. You almost have to wait for somebody to hit because there could be something, a massive roar, and 11 is the hardest tee shot out here.”
The 11th tee box is in the shadows of 16 and you never know when a large road may erupt from the Coliseum.
“In that case, I would maybe pay some attention to just the timing of when you can tell someone has already hit and when your window would be to hit if you have that luxury.
“Fifteen is not as bad. I think you’re just excited to get into 16. It is really cool. I’ve now played this a handful of times, and I’m still always excited to go into that arena.
“But I wouldn’t say it’s, I guess, focus. It’s more just the ruckus that you’ll have. You just don’t want it to startle you, and I don’t think you really get that as much on 15 because you obviously already hit the tee shot and the second shot, so it’s hard to really startle somebody when they’re putting as much as it is when you’re hitting the tee ball on 11.”
Did you ever come here as a fan?
“I did not, no. I will say that the year I retire you will find me here. I will be having a great time.”
Where will you sit or where will you go?
“That’s a really good question. Wherever the liquid takes me, I think.”
On whether the Phoenix Open's recipe can work in other places
Homa said living in the Scottsdale-Phoenix area has allowed him to see the way the community embraces the WM Phoenix Open, but he does think the formula could work in other places under the right circumstances. And he understands that the SSG agreement will likely have investors looking for a return on their dollar.
Targeting younger audiences with the Pheonix approach could help.
“I think in a vacuum, that would work. I don’t think people recognize that this city, this is like a part of the culture. I don’t know if you’ve spent much time at ASU, but it’s kind of unique to that.
“I think that we’ve had events try to do similar types of things. The Rocket Mortgage does a great job at the end of their tournament. 15 has a semi-enclosed area and it’s a party hole. I’ve seen the LIV Tour does a similar thing. Adelaide does a great job. You can try, but you do need the culture of the city to be behind it to make it that great.
“I think that this city, it’s like a part of — living here all the time, people just call this the Open: Are you going to the Open? Are you going to the Open? It’s a massive ordeal here.
“I think that you could try and do that, and I don’t think it would be successful. If they were to venture down that and it did work, I think I would like it. It’s fun. I just think it is unique to Scottsdale.
“I think making golf younger is a big goal. It’s tough in cities where — if we go to LA next week, it’s a completely — there’s not a ton of young people that live in the Pacific Palisades unless you’re lucky enough for your parents to be very successful. It’s a pretty tough area to get real estate.
“I just think that it would be great to keep doing something like this. I just don’t think it would always land — I’m sure this costs a lot of money to do, but they’re going to get a great return. I’m just not sure it would be something that people would want to venture down. But it is fun to at least have this event with this demographic that at the very least is bringing eyeballs to younger people that this is at least something, and maybe if just a couple people grab on to that and say, I really like golf now, that’s a success to me.”