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How should Max Homa prepare for buddy Kevin Kisner at the WGC-Dell Match Play? ‘Probably just put in earplugs’

AUSTIN, Texas — If Max Homa needed a quick jolt to remind him that he’d stepped out of the conventional stroke-play world for a week, it certainly didn’t take long to come during Wednesday’s opening round at Austin Country Club.

Homa’s drive on the first hole at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play was in perfect position, but he flew the green on his second shot, a strong wind pushing the ball over the putting surface. His chip screamed past the hole, leaving him a 26-foot putt for par, which he then missed.

But after his opponent, Justin Suh, made a royal mess of things — including a chip that rolled back to his feet — Homa walked away 1 up.

Ah, the joys of match play.

“I think I would have been frustrated through nine holes, knowing I was hitting some good shots, but I wasn’t getting anywhere near it,” Homa said after beating Suh, 3 and 2, in his opening match. “The grind was worth it. I was talking to (caddie) Joe (Greiner) and I was like, ‘we didn’t get much out of that and usually you’re behind the 8-ball, but Justin was having the same kind of issues I was having and we all-square. So you feel good about your game going into the back.”

Homa didn’t post his first birdie until the 12th hole, but with Suh also failing to capitalize, he still closed out the former USC star on the 16th.

As for the format, Homa said he enjoys the change to match play

“I think it’s like the pure form of golf. I know back in the day majors were played like this and that’s pretty much how golf was. I don’t think that that is exactly the way things should be,” Homa said. “It’s nice to do it once in a while, at the team events, at this. I think that’s pretty cool.

“We play it all the time at home, so it’s nice to do it competitively every once in a while.”

Now that he’s got his first match out of the way, Homa has an interesting obstacle to tackle on Thursday as he meets up with match-play legend Kevin Kisner, a player who has enjoyed tremendous success at Austin Country Club. The Georgia Bulldog won the event in 2019 and has reached the final two others times, including last year when he fell to champ Scottie Scheffler.

When asked how he’ll prepare for Kisner, Homa cracked a wide smile.

“Probably just put in earplugs and not listen to anything he says,” Homa joked. “You know, I play with him at the QBE Shootout every year, and it’s so much fun.

“I imagine tomorrow will be quite the opposite.”

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