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Max Homa looking to fend off pressure in hometown U.S. Open at LACC

LOS ANGELES – Max Homa knows there is added pressure on him this week.

He’s playing one of the biggest tournaments of the year, in his hometown, at a place he holds the course record, and in front of friends and family, which could be enough to make any player crumble.

For better or worse, Homa has plenty of experience struggling under the brightest lights.

“You just look at how I played every other major, trying way too hard, so I’m quite good at that,” Homa said. “This has been almost a welcome change because I’ve been so prepared to try too hard at this event in particular, I’ve been more keen to avoid doing that.”

Full-field scores from U.S. Open

Homa was his typical vulnerable self Tuesday, blending excitement and wariness for what lies ahead. The L.A. native believes his perfectionism can be a double-edged sword. A work ethic that helped him climb from the dark depths of the professional golf world to a spot among the world’s best players is also a determination that makes failure a difficult pill to swallow.

After a hot start to the 2023 season, Homa expected better results in the first two majors. The PGA Championship was particularly disappointing. All it took was a missed green on the first hole of the tournament for Homa to fall into a fight-or-flight response.

After the third round at Oak Hill Country Club, Homa and coach Mark Blackburn sat down for an honest conversation about finding joy in golf when he doesn’t have his best stuff. Good golf is hardly a guarantee, so Homa is now hoping to enjoy the challenge of managing his emotions and being better with flushing away his struggles.

Trent Redfern has an up-close look at Max Homa’s record-breaking 61 at LACC in the 2013 Pac-12 Championships.

“I do believe that once I start to see the joy controlling your own mind, what that can bring you, I think I’m going to start to make that more of a priority or at least be more in tune with it,” Homa said.

The process of controlling his mind started earlier for this tournament than any other in his career. There are ticket requests from old friends, expectations from local fans and pressure from within. He set the LACC standard in 2013 with his course-record 61 that propelled him to a Pac-12 Championship title.

But instead of focusing on that, Homa’s thinking about all the positives this week will bring. He got to have dinner with two of his best friends Monday night, and his dad was able to walk with him for Tuesday’s practice round.

That shift may seem simple, but it’s evidence of Homa’s new endeavor in action.

“I think I’ve been waiting for the weeks to click with my golf game and realizing that it’s not the golf game,” he said. “This week will be a mental test for me, which is good.”

The preparation for this week began months ago, and Homa thinks he’s off to a good start, but the grades don’t start counting until Thursday.