2023 Nedbank Golf Challenge: Max Homa looks to join elite company with lead entering final round

If Max Homa goes on to win on Sunday at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, it will be his fourth victory worldwide since the beginning of 2022. Only Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Cameron Smith, Scottie Scheffler and Rory McIlroy have more.

If that seems like heady company Homa, currently ranked No. 8 in the world, is keeping, that’s because it is. It’s the neighborhood he’s been playing in for a long time, though, and he’s going to be difficult to catch at 13 under, with a one-stroke lead over Matthieu Pavon and two over fellow Ryder Cupper Nicolai Hojgaard as well as Thorbjorn Olesen.

Homa shot 3 under in the third round at Gary Player Country Club, which was one of the handful of best rounds on a tough day.

Homa, who is making his first start since an incredible Ryder Cup debut at the end of September, is certainly the guy to beat. Data Golf gives him a 50% chance of winning, and he’s looking at what will almost certainly be his seventh consecutive top 12 finish dating all the way back to the Scottish Open in July.

There’s more. Since 2019, Homa has entered the final round of an event inside the top three on the leaderboard eight times. He has won five of those tournaments, which is an astounding number given the caliber of fields he’s often up against.

The chasers will be solid but not spectacular. You have to go all the way down to 7 under where Tommy Fleetwood sits T8, six back of Homa, to find somebody who’s won at the level Homa has won at worldwide.

That’s not to say it will be easy. Homa stumbled out of the gate on Saturday in the third round, nearly having to play a provisional and then making an early bogey on a par 3. He recovered nicely, though, with an eagle at the par-5 10th and another birdie coming home for his third straight 33 on the back nine of the golf course.

“I wasn’t swinging it so well to start, I was a bit scrappy,” said Homa. “I hit the ball really well coming down the last nine or ten holes. That was nice. I didn’t hole anything putting wise but I made a nice bunker shot for eagle on 10, which helped because I couldn’t get the ball to go into the hole. I hit it really well and had a lot of looks.”

Jon Rahm, Viktor Hovland, Cameron Smith, Scottie Scheffler, Rory McIlroy … and Max Homa. Those are the names of the players that will have won four or more times since the start of 2022 if Homa hangs on to his one-shot lead in South Africa on Sunday. A list that would not have been fathomable to the Homa of five years ago but that is becoming increasingly familiar as he continues his march toward the top of the Official World Golf Rankings. 

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