Tony Finau might actually be a legitimate addict if winning is a habit.
Between his first triumph at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and qualifying last August by winning the Northern Trust, Finau had made 143 starts and had gone 1,975 days without a top-10 finish, including eight times as a runner-up.
The distance between wins three and four was much smaller.
Finau won his second straight tournament by shooting a final-round 5-under 67 at Detroit Golf Club to win the Rocket Mortgage Classic in The Motor City by five strokes over Patrick Cantlay, Taylor Pendrith, and Cameron Young. This victory came seven days after Finau overcame a five-stroke deficit entering the final round of the 3M Open to win his third Tour title.
Finau remarked, “They say a winner is just a loser who just kept trying, and that’s me to a T.” How often do I fall short? But there is one thing I will never do, and the only reason I am a winner today is because I made the decision to keep going rather than quit up.
Since Patrick Cantlay accomplished this feat at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship a year ago, Finau, 32, is the first player to win consecutive tournaments. The biggest threat to ruin Finau’s day came from Cantlay. In his final round, Cantlay had birdies on five of the first eight holes, but a bogey at No. 12 cost him. The defending FedEx Cup champion finished the season with a Tour-best 10th top-10 finish after shooting 6-under 66.
That’s what I need to keep doing, Cantlay remarked, “just keep knocking on the door.”
The 31-year-old Canadian rookie Pendrith missed 15 weeks of competition due to a damaged left rib. He had just one top-10 finish in his career coming into the week, but he birdied 25 times in his first 54 holes to tie for the lead on Sunday. Pendrith’s inexperience was evident as he carded an even-par 72 while playing in the last group with Finau for the second day in a row, but he still recorded his best career finish. As he continues to pursue his first Tour championship, Young, a fellow rookie, closed in 68 to record his fifth runner-up result this season, tying six other players for the most in a season on the Tour in the previous 40 years.
Tony outperformed us all today, but Young commented, “It’s not fun being that close so often and not having one (win).”
Despite winning the Ryder Cup and the FedEx Cup Playoffs the previous year, Finau’s play dipped early this year as he and his family mourned the passing of the father of his wife, Alayna. Prior to the Mexico Open in late April, Finau was 150th in the FedEx Cup point standings. Finau came in second place and regained his mojo.
Finau’s swing coach, Boyd Summerhays, remarked of his student, “He’s a lot harder than people realize.” “I believe the two most important things were perseverance and patience. Despite his slump, he never lost confidence. He became hungry once he warmed up.
Boyd Summerhays, Finau’s swing coach, remarked that the golfer was tougher than most people realized. The two most important factors, in my opinion, were perseverance and patience. Throughout that pause, he maintained his confidence. He was starving once he started to become hot.
Finau’s first bogey in Motown was met with what reaction? At the 12th hole, he sank a 31-foot birdie to increase his advantage over Pendrith to four shots. He celebrated by pumping his right fist.
We all agree that he needs to make more putts on Sunday to finish the job, and he just did that, according to Summerhays.
For a while, Finau was expected to achieve this level of accomplishment. He came in first place in driving accuracy, second place in SG: Off the Tee, and third place in SG: Tee-to-Green.
Regarding his driving skills, he stated, “I think that’s a significant reason I’ve been hitting so many greens.” Simply said, I’m hitting a lot more fairways now than I usually would or have in the past. If you hit it in the short grass here on the golf course, it really opens up for you.
Since 1980, only two players have hit more greens in regulation in a 72-hole event on TOUR than Tony Finau (66 of 72) at the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic:
69, Peter Jacobsen, 1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
67, Willie Wood, 1996 Sanderson Farms Championship
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) July 31, 2022
It helped that Finau was perfect in six scramble attempts and hit 66 of 72 greens in regulation, which tied for third-most on the Tour since 1980. With a score of 26-under 262, Finau set a new tournament record for 72 holes.
It’s the result of him beginning to hit the ball better than he ever has in his career, and Summerhays noted that he was already an incredible ballstriker. He’s going to be there nearly every week for him, especially now that he’s started to gain strokes on the green.
Finau thought he still had some unfinished business despite his come-from-behind victory last week in Minnesota. He had gotten lucky last week at holes 17 and 18, where his tee shot ricocheted off a sponsor chalet and stopped just short of the water, and 18, where his drive rolled into the lake and cost him a penalty stroke. In addition to putting an end to the fact that he had failed to win in five previous efforts while holding the 54-hole lead or joint lead, he also wanted to end this week in grand fashion.
I think it just gave me more motivation to put myself there again this week and just prove to myself the kind of champion that I am by making birdies down the stretch when you really need them, as Finau said. “For some reason I left (3M), and after bogeying the 18th hole I had kind of a sour taste in my mouth,” Finau said. “I felt like I was able to show myself this week that I am the champion that I know I am.”
A champion whose wife had enough faith in her husband to fly to Detroit on Saturday night just to be there. Alayna waited behind the 18th green for the final shot to be made, at which point Tony sprinted to embrace her. Their long kiss served as a symbol of their accomplishment and the obstacles they had to conquer. Don’t look now, but Finau is beginning to make these celebrations a regular occurrence.