Max Homa is among a group of Masters contenders who are vying for their first major title

Max Homa waves after making a putt on the second hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Max Homa waves after making a putt on the second hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) Ashley Landis

Max Homa and Tiger Woods walk on the 17th hole during the weather delayed first round round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Max Homa and Tiger Woods walk on the 17th hole during the weather delayed first round round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/George Walker IV) George Walker IV

Max Homa waves after making a putt on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Max Homa waves after making a putt on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) Ashley Landis

Max Homa hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Max Homa hits his tee shot on the ninth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

Ludvig Aberg, of Sweden, waves after making a putt on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Ludvig Aberg, of Sweden, waves after making a putt on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) Ashley Landis

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the 13th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, reacts after missing a putt on the 13th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) David J. Phillip

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Rory McIlroy, of Northern Ireland, hits his tee shot on the 12th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel) Charlie Riedel

Xander Schauffele lines up a putt on the second hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/George Walker IV)

Xander Schauffele lines up a putt on the second hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/George Walker IV) George Walker IV

Cameron Young and his caddie Steve Underwood watch sand blow across the green on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis)

Cameron Young and his caddie Steve Underwood watch sand blow across the green on the 18th hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis) Ashley Landis

Cameron Young watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

Cameron Young watches his tee shot on the fourth hole during second round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Friday, April 12, 2024, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum) Matt Slocum

By STEVE REED

Associated Press

Published: 04-12-2024 8:04 PM

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Max Homa figures if he can conquer the mental task of playing well in a group with Tiger Woods for 36 holes at the Masters, he can accomplish pretty much anything in golf.

That includes winning his first major championship.

Homa was at 6 under midway through the tournament and in contention heading into Saturday’s third round at Augusta National.

The 33-year-old Homa is no stranger to winning. He has six PGA Tour victories and another on the European tour. He’s ranked 11th in the world.

But his resume in majors is a little thin.

His best finish is a tie for 10th last year at the British Open, where he never had a realistic chance of winning. This is the first time he’s ever been in the top five after a round at a major.

If he can maintain his form for another 36 holes, he could win his first major and elevate his standing in the game.

“I feel like I showed a bit of moxie the last couple days, especially yesterday the first few holes playing with Tiger in front of a lot of people at the Masters,” Homa said after his second-round 71 on Friday. “And I played some great golf. So I know I have that one in me. I’d like to see if I have the mental discipline for a whole week.”

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The cerebral, introspective Homa, who has taken to writing daily in his journal, is trying not to get caught up in the moment.

He’s been thinking this week about the movie “Hoosiers,” in which basketball coach Norman Dale, played by Gene Hackman, has his starstruck small-town players measure the height of the basket at the large arena that’s hosting the state championship. The point is to illustrate that while the venue might be bigger, the game is the same.

“The hole is the same size,” Homa pointed out.

Homa isn’t the only player seeking a life-changing victory.

He was among four players within striking distance of the lead who were chasing their first major championship.

Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard was 4 under, Australia’s Cameron Davis was 3 under and Sweden’s Ludvig Aberg was 2 under. Whether any of them can win on golf’s biggest stage remains uncertain.

Aberg is in a unique situation.

He’s trying to become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller did it 45 years ago.

He’s relying heavily on veteran caddie Joe Skovron to help him navigate Augusta, all while trying to relish the opportunity to play in the Masters. Aberg, who turned pro last spring after a standout college career at Texas Tech, is playing in his first major.

“Once you’re over the ball, once you’re making the decisions of what you want to do, that’s when you’re in tournament mode,” Aberg said. “Once you’re done with that, it’s back to soaking it in and try to enjoy the walk as much as I can.”

Davis brought his wife, parents, brother, aunts and uncles to Augusta. He said he’s not paying attention to the scoreboard, but said they sure are.

Others in the hunt for their first major include Xander Schauffele, a perpetual bridesmaid in golf’s top four tournaments who has finished third or better at the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, along with a top 10 at the PGA Championship.

Cameron Young and Tommy Fleetwood, each ranked within the top 14 in the world, are also hanging around.

“Tomorrow will be different than a regular tour event,” Homa said.