LOS ANGELES — The dream of winning at Riviera Country Club felt too good to be true for Max Homa, and it nearly was.
Needing a birdie on the 18th hole Sunday to win the Genesis Invitational, he hit a sand wedge to a back pin and the ball settled three feet away from the cup, setting up the storybook finish for a guy who grew up 30 miles away and has been watching this tournament his whole life.
And then he missed.
After that, with his ball next to the base of a tree left of the 10th green on the first playoff hole, Homa hooded a gap wedge with enough topspin to scoot up the Kikuyu grass and onto the edge of the green, setting up par. Tony Finau missed a seven-footer, and Homa was happy just to get to the next hole.
Homa won on the second extra hole when Finau failed to save par from a bunker, missing a 10-foot putt.
The message from tournament host Tiger Woods at the trophy presentation: Way to hang in there.
Did he ever.
"I don't know if I could ever do anything cooler in golf than this," said Homa, who closed with a 5-under-par 66 and played his final 26 holes at Riviera without a bogey. "Tiger Woods is handing us a trophy — that's a pretty crazy thought. We grew up idolizing him, idolizing Riviera Country Club, idolizing the golf tournament. To get it done, it's almost shocking.
"It feels like it just can't be topped for me."
It was more heartache for Finau, who now has 10 runner-up finishes worldwide since winning the Puerto Rico Open five years ago for his lone PGA Tour victory. He closed with a 64, the best score of the final round. He had a seven-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole for the win and left it on the low side. He watched someone celebrate again. And yet he kept his chin up.
"It's bittersweet to be in this position again," Finau said. "But I never get tired of playing good golf, and that's what I tell myself every week."
Homa, who joined Finau at 12-under 272, won for the second time on the PGA Tour, with his first win at the 2019 Wells Fargo Championship. The 30-year-old Burbank native will crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking for the first time at No. 38. The victory sends him back to the Masters, along with the next three World Golf Championships.
All that felt secondary. He was at Riviera, just like he was as a kid eating soft pretzels and watching the best golfers in the world. Only this time, he was holding the trophy.
"I think young me would have had a hard time dreaming this one," Homa said.
For so long, the tournament belonged to Sam Burns. He was on the verge of becoming the first player to go wire-to-wire at Riviera since Hal Sutton won the 1983 PGA Championship. It fell apart with three bogeys in a four-hole stretch on the back nine, and he closed with a 69 to finish one shot out of the playoff.
"Just didn't play well enough," Burns said. "I didn't drive it well enough to really score the last seven holes."