Home Sport Homa clinches Nedbank Golf Challenge title with a roar on debut

Homa clinches Nedbank Golf Challenge title with a roar on debut

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American Max Homa closed with a 66 at the Gary Player Country Club that included a memorable eagle on the ninth to win by four shots on 19-under par.

SUN CITY, SOUTH AFRICA – NOVEMBER 12: Max Homa of the United States holds the trophy as he celebrates victory after winning the tournament during Day Four of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Gary Player CC on November 12, 2023 in Sun City, South Africa. Picture: Warren Little, Getty Images

WHEN the sun rises in Africa, you want to be the lion rather than the impala. That’s what Max Homa kept telling himself in the final round of a Nedbank Golf Challenge, where he played like a lion to win ‘Africa’s Major’ at Sun City yesterday.

Homa closed with a 66 at the Gary Player Country Club that included a memorable eagle on the ninth to win by four shots on 19-under par. It was the first victory by an American in this tournament since Jim Furyk in 2006, and it capped what Homa described as a life-changing first visit to Africa.

“Back home, I’m fortunate to get a lot of great support,” said Homa.

“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. 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 be 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 Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen, and the key moment came on the iconic par-five ninth hole.

“The shot of the tournament for me was on nine. 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 Thorbjorn on the ninth fairway.

“My swing felt good and I wanted to make a statement to myself, so I hit a beautiful three-iron onto that green and made a relatively easy putt. It was a good time to hit a great shot.”

Olesen couldn’t sustain his charge and finished third on 14- under with a 69, while Nicolai Hojgaard pushed through with a 68 to finish second on 15-under par. Justin Thomas came up with a strong final round of 66 to take fourth place on 12-under par, while Hennie du Plessis finished as the leading South African in sixth place on 10-under par and on his debut in this tournament.

But on yet another memorable Sunday afternoon at Sun City, it was Homa who birdied two of his final four holes to add his name to the long list of great champions of this tournament.

Said the 32-year-old: “I walked down that walkway to the ninth green again and I pictured a plaque with my name on it, alongside all the other greats there.

“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.”

As he flies home with a cheque for just over $1 million, that’s the tooth fairy taken care of as well.

Meanwhile, Rory McIlroy sealed top place in the DP World Tour rankings yesterday without hitting a shot as none of his closest challengers can now catch him after the end of the penultimate event of the season at Sun City.

Northern Irishman McIlroy, with 5 164.5 points going into the DP World Tour Championship at Dubai this week, has now finished top of the formerly named European Tour money list five times, first in 2012 and again in 2014, 2015 and last year.

McIlroy, who made more than €7m in prize money in nine tour events this year, is 2 083 points ahead of second-placed Jon Rahm, the Masters champion, with Adrian Meronk third.

Sunshine Tour and Reuters

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