SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Max Homa was sitting on a plane, flying back to Arizona from the RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia, on Nov. 19, when he started to think about how to get better. It was his 31st birthday, and earlier in the day, he missed the cut by 3 strokes. Getting into his own head and dissecting his game on the way home has become standard operating procedure for Homa after tournaments he doesn't win.
As he flew cross-country, Homa wasn't just sitting 35,000 feet over the terra firma -- he started to look at his career from above.
Below, he saw a player who has three wins on the PGA Tour and is better known by some for his hilarious tweets. Perhaps more importantly, he saw a man who is finally in a good place physically and mentally.
Homa, who has 313,000 Twitter followers and has become a social media phenomenon for his witty humor, swing roasts and banter with friends and fellow pros like Joel Dahmen and Talor Gooch, didn't want to waste that progress.
He grew up thinking golfers hit their prime in their 30s, even though that notion has been challenged the past couple of years. Five of the seven most recent major winners were younger than 30, including a pair by 24-year-old Collin Morikawa. Homa watched them win, play in Ryder Cups, sit atop the Official World Golf Ranking and money lists. He was inspired to get to those heights himself.
This, Homa contemplated on that flight, was the time to push his limits to see how far it could go.
Last February, he won the Genesis Invitational at Riviera and was even handed the trophy by the tournament host -- Tiger Woods. Even though it was his third win on tour, before that moment, Homa didn't think he was good enough, didn't think he could do the whole professional golfer thing.
In 2017, he made just two cuts the entire season. Things got ugly. Dahmen remembered playing with Homa during a practice round before the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2017 and Homa didn't help on a single hole.
"He was shooting in the 80s, he couldn't keep the ball on earth," Dahmen said. "He was just lost. He was just a lost golfer."
Homa lost his tour card for the second time in three years after that season. The scar tissue of 2017 won't ever go away -- and he doesn't want it to. Still, the further Homa gets away from that year, in both time and success, the more he sees how much it meant, that he survived it and came out better on the other side.
"I know everyone has their lows and highs, but that was pretty dark as far as the golf game went," Homa said. "Hopefully I do cooler things in life, but in golf, I could win 10 majors in a row and I'd be the most proud of battling through that year, and coming out in 2018 a better player and, I guess, a tougher person.
"I just like couldn't be more proud of that."
Now Homa, who will start his 2022 at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, which is reserved for those who won the year before, wants more.
"Maybe it's a midlife crisis," Homa said with a laugh. "I was just thinking, 'Man, I don't want to think back in five years that I had a chance to make the Presidents Cup team and maybe a Ryder Cup a year later, or maybe win a major, and I kind of got happy with where I was in golf.'"
Homa got off the plane in Arizona with a plan.
He took a couple of days off and then started his new workout routine, which was set up by his new trainer, Kolby Tullier, who works with pros Justin Thomas and Gooch. The plan had him waking up between 5-5:30 a.m. to get his gym sessions done by time the sun came up in Scottsdale around 7:30 a.m. That left him an entire day of sunlight to practice, walk his dogs and hang out with his wife, Lacey. Old videos of Kobe Bryant helped lay a foundation for Homa's days. Like Bryant would, Homa works out in two-hour increments.
One Friday night last fall, while out with Dahmen, Homa said he was cutting his night short after a couple of beers because he had something going on the next day. So Dahmen asked: What, exactly, did he have planned for early on a Saturday morning?
It was a gym session followed by a little practice.
The old Homa, Dahmen said, would've kept going and had "a lot more beers."
"I was like, 'Damn, like that's pretty good because, typically, I can talk him into a lot of things. But he was pretty focused on what he had to get done the next day and he was going to do it," Dahmen said. "He's always been dedicated, but I think he's even more focused now."
Homa wants to prove that he's more than a former NCAA individual champion, more than just a three-time winner on tour.
He also wants to prove he's more than a Twitter sensation.
"I definitely feel like in the last year or so I probably shouldn't continue to be looked at as a 'Twitter guy' -- but I guess that's just what it is," Homa said. "I don't mind it. It's been really cool meeting and kind of engaging with a lot of people who are in the golf world and who watch golf and just fans of the game.
"So, it's cool to be a part of that. At the same time, it's like it's just not exactly what I'm going for. It just kind of fell in my lap."
HOMA STILL REMEMBERS his first viral tweet.
It happened on March 26, 2016, when he tweeted about former Kansas basketball star Perry Ellis.
If u ask Perry Ellis about getting drafted he still thinks you're talking about World War 2— max homa (@maxhoma23) March 27, 2016
"That was the first one where like, I put my phone down and picked it back up and I was like, 'Holy hell, there's a lot of interaction with this,'" Homa said. "And it was the first one where I was like, 'Man, that's a dumb thing I just said.' Then it got some run."
That was just the beginning.
One of the most common questions that Homa gets is how long does it take him to come up with a tweet? They just pop into his head. When that happens, though, he workshops them until they're perfect.
"We kind of see him analyze a tweet, and then he'll type it, he'll save it, he'll delete it, he'll edit it," said Peter Pappageorge, one of Homa's closest friends. "He'll grind at some of these tweets, which, nowadays, you kind of have to. You have to think it through."
But who Homa is on Twitter is who he is offline, Pappageorge said.
Homa's tweets are typically an extension of his group chats.
"There's no depth to my brain," he said. "It's incredibly, incredibly unremarkable, but it will be funny in very short stints."
He summed it up like this: "My mind moves a million miles a minute."
Homa realized during his first or second year on the tour that he was actually starting to get a following when another player repeated a joke he tweeted back to him.
Some of Homa's best friends are on tour. The group includes Dahmen, Dahmen's caddie, Geno Bonnalie, another caddie, Aaron Fleenor and Gooch. Homa calls them the Tour's "hipsters." They tweet at each other -- and even with each other. Homa and Dahmen have tweeted to each other while sitting across the table at dinner. It's usually fueled by beer, Dahmen said, but both think it's funny.
Homa feels like he has too many Twitter followers for the level of his golf game. He's trying to even the scales. Still, it annoys him when the TV broadcasts refer to him as the "Twitter guy."
"I don't know how many people won multiple times in 2021? But I don't think it was a lot. So it's kind of tilting at times, but it's not a bad thing. It's good to be known for something outside of golf.
"I would trade my Twitter in a heartbeat for anything in golf. Like in the back of my mind, I want people to know me as the guy who's really damn good at golf and works really hard, because that's who I actually am. I don't take pride in my Twitter. I take pride in what I do on a daily basis to get better at golf."
Homa has become known for roasting swings on Twitter. And he'll roast anyone -- from the famous to the anonymous. Not even little kids are safe.
Great swing however little man didn't really hold his finish and he didn't even sprinkle in a club twirl. I appreciate his pace of play tho https://t.co/3a4bu6jlgz— max homa (@maxhoma23) April 23, 2020
"That's the wildest thing of all time," he said. "It shows me the beauty of golf, that just everybody loves golf and everybody wants to get better. We all want to look like Adam Scott -- and none of us do."
Homa estimates he's done a few hundred swing roasts.
"Some of the stuff that he would come up with, I was like, 'How did you come up with this?'" Dahmen said. "Like, how did your mind go into that? Like, how are you that witty with just this little 10-second clip of golf? And how could you do so many of them and keep them original -- different videos and stuff like that -- instead of repeating the same stuff all the time?"
For all the good that's come from Twitter for Homa, he's also dealt with its ugly side.
In 2017, when he was playing poorly, people piled on.
"I was already upset and I was already struggling," Homa said. "I was already in a pretty low spot without any social media and now I'm just kind of adding to it."
He's taken social media breaks before, sometimes as long as two weeks. He took one after the PGA Championship last summer for 48 hours, not wanting to read about himself, the course or the tournament because he was so frustrated. (He shot 78-76 at Kiawah Island and missed the cut in an event that 50-year-old Phil Mickelson went on to win.)
Another time, he had his wife change his password for him so he couldn't get on. One time his sister told him she cries when she reads some of the things people say about him.
Among all the praise and positive tweets after a round, there's bound to be one that tells Homa he sucks. That's the one he would lock into.
"I'll sit there and look at it and I think to myself, 'I'm using that as motivation not to suck next time and rub it in the guy's face," Homa said. "But is that healthy? Because who is that person? That person is a sad person."
Now, though, Homa has finally embraced the mute button on Twitter.
PART OF HOMA'S journey has been a reassessment of his mental game.
The old Homa was in his own bubble on the course. He critically judged every shot he took. He didn't like that.
"I always wanted it to change a bit because I was kind of tired of being like a sourpuss at times, I guess, about how I'm playing," Homa said. "It should not affect your life so much every time you hit a golf ball. It just shouldn't."
Homa started reading books about mental health and leaned on his wife, his caddie, Joe Greiner, and friends to talk through it. Now when he starts to get frustrated, he tries to break down what's causing it.
His goal is true happiness, not fake happiness. To Homa, true happiness means a bogey won't mess him up.
"There's like almost no reason to get mad," Homa said. "I've never seen a benefit of getting mad. I do it all the time, but I never see a benefit of it later. It's not like it spurs you along. You just get pissed off."
Homa won the Fortinet Championship in Napa in September. This came right after he was not selected for the Ryder Cup team, which would have been a stretch considering he was on the bubble until the summer but then fell off the pace in the points race. But he was in consideration, to the point where he was fitted for the Ryder Cup uniform at the PGA Championship and was part of the text messages and emails from captain Steve Stricker.
"I guess it's just like knowing that you can," he said. "I've realized this past year that I can make that scene. I guess before I didn't know if I could."
He feels the same way about majors.
Homa has made just two cuts in eight appearances at majors. He was only around for the weekend at The Open in 2021, finishing in a tie for 40th.
"I guess it's experience," Homa said. "I haven't played in a ton of them. I feel like this coming season, I'm going to feel a lot less out of my comfort zone at them."
Homa feels more solidified in his golf than he ever has. That, like winning, was once foreign to him.
After that plane ride in November, Homa made what could end up being a career-changing, career-defining decision: He didn't want to be content with last season. He wants more wins. He wants to be top 10 in the world, even rise to No. 1. He wants to be on the Ryder Cup team. He wants to win majors.
"To see him struggle the first couple years of professional was ... I can't imagine how hard it was for him," Dahmen said. "But everyone was kind of like waiting for this Max Homa guy to break through."