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Max Homa is among a group of Masters candidates vying for their first major title

AUGUSTA, Ga. (AP) — Max Homa thinks 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 just about anything in golf.

That includes winning his first major championship.

Homa was at 6 under halfway through the tournament and in conflict 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 is ranked 11th in the world.

But his resume in the majors is a bit thin.

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

If he can maintain his form for another 36 holes, he can win his first major and increase his position in the game.

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

The cerebral, introspective Homa, who writes in his diary daily, tries 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 star-struck small-town players measure the height of the basket in the large arena where the state championship is being held. The point is to illustrate that while the location may be bigger, the game is the same.

“The gap is the same size,” Homa noted.

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

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

Denmark’s Nicolai Hojgaard was 4 under, Australian Cameron Davis was 3 under and Swede 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 is trying to become the first Masters rookie to win since Fuzzy Zoeller did it 45 years ago.

He relies heavily on veteran caddy Joe Skovron to help him navigate Augusta as he tries to enjoy 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 get over the ball, once you make the decisions about what you want to do, then you’re in tournament mode,” Aberg said. “When you’re done with that, you have to take it back in and try to enjoy the walk as much as you can.”

Davis brought his wife, parents, brother, uncles and aunts to Augusta. He said he doesn’t pay attention to the scoreboard, but said he does.

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

Cameron Young and Tommy Fleetwood, both ranked in the top 14 in the world, are also hanging out.

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

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AP Golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf