Finau Picks The Right Moment to Win His Second Tournament
TONY FINAU has waited a long time for his second victory on the PGA Tour. But if you are going to do it, you may as well do it in style, and the American did precisely that by winning the storm-delayed Northern Trust Open in New York by defeating Cameron Smith in a playoff.
"It feels amazing. It took just about everything I had. ... I just fought and it's pretty cool to be standing here again," Finau said after the win.
It means that the Ryder Cup player leaps from 23rd to top of the FedEx Cup standings ahead of this week’s BMW Championship at Olympia Fields. His only previous success came at the Puerto Rico Open in 2016. There have been a bucketload of near-misses since then and the must have started to wonder if he would ever win a “proper” tournament. Well he has now answered those questions and put all the doubts to rest. And with the victory he has surely secured his place in Steve Stricker’s Ryder Cup team.
On a Monday finish caused by Hurricane Henri, Finau caught and passed World Number One Jon Rahm by shooting a six-under 65 at Liberty National and defeated Smith in a sudden-death playoff with a par on the first extra hole.
Finau, who trailed Rahm and Smith by two strokes entering the final round, birdied two of the first four holes to grab a share of the lead, but he failed to escape a greenside bunker from a plugged lie at the par-five eighth and made bogey to drop two strokes behind Rahm.
Finau lives by a mantra: “We don’t panic, we don’t panic and we don’t panic.” And he kept his cool, playing a five-hole stretch beginning at the 12th in five under par, including a three-foot eagle putt at the 13th, to overtake Rahm.
The momentum of the tournament was stalled by Hurricane Henri, which dumped nine inches of rain on the course in 36 hours. It took a Herculean effort to get the course playable, with final-round tee times delayed four hours. Early starters played in more rain, but the sun eventually made an appearance by the time the leaders teed off.
For much of the day, it looked as if Rahm, who won the U.S. Open in June and was playing for the first time since he tested positive for Covid-19 for the second time forcing him to miss the Tokyo Olympics, would stroll to an easy victory. But his putter went stone cold and when Finau and Smith applied pressure, Rahm couldn’t find an answer. He bogeyed the 15th and 18th holes to shoot 69 and finished in third at 18 under.
Finau had struggled with his putter during Saturday’s third round so he brought his putter to his hotel room to practice on Sunday. “I need to have a talk with it,” he said. “It needs to wake up.”
He picked a good time to waken it, drilling a 30-foot birdie putt at the par-3 14th and tacked on one last birdie at the 16th to cap off a back-nine 30. Finau sank all nine attempts in the final round from 3-7 feet, including a 6-foot par save at the last, clenching his right fist.
In the tournament within the tournament, Keith Mitchell birdied the last three holes to improve 38 spots in the standings and finish No. 63, bumping Matthew Wolff from the BMW Championship, the second leg of the playoffs. Tom Hoge and Alex Noren, who shot 66, both shared fourth with Justin Thomas and were among the other five players to jump inside the top 70 in points and advance to the next tournament along with Harry Higgs, Erik van Rooyen and Harold Varner III.
And in what turned out to be an excellent tournament for European golf, Noren and Shane Lowry did what they had to do to qualify for the 70-man field at the BMW Championship later this week. Paul Casey and Rory McIlroy will also be there but in a serious blow for his Ryder Cup hopes, Ian Poulter failed to make it. Scottish pair Martin Laird and Russell Knox also missed out, as did England's Tommy Fleetwood, Tyrrell Hatton, Matt Fitzpatrick and Matt Wallace.
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Tags: PGA Tour