Tuesday Finish: 5 surprising golfers bounced from the FedEx Cup Playoffs
Welcome to the Monday Finish! Renamed this week because, y’know, rain. Let’s get you out on course.
FIRST OFF THE TEE
In the immediate aftermath of Tony Finau’s Monday victory at the Northern Trust, you might not have known just how much the win meant. In his first post-round interviews he spoke in the athletic parlance of our times, said he was looking forward to next week and going on a run. That’s the instinct for so many of these guys: On to the next one.
He didn’t initially acknowledge what we knew must be true — that he’d been hurting not having this one. But near the end of his press conference, Finau finally got to get something off his chest when he was asked if he thought he’d been unfairly criticized for his victory drought.
“Yeah, no question, I think a little bit of it,” he said. “But that’s how it is in sports — when you don’t seal the deal, as time goes on, they don’t give you the benefit of the doubt. So I knew for me, I needed to prove people wrong by winning. That’s the bottom line and that’s what sports is all about.”
(Heads up: For a breakdown of all this week’s action, listen to this week’s Drop Zone here!)
The thing about Finau is that he’s always carried himself with the confidence of a winner. That may be a product of his chip-on-the-shoulder upbringing, his ability to climb his way to the top or just the swagger that comes from incredible power off the tee. But on the PGA Tour, he hasn’t had the resume to back it up — until now. Read this next bit with that in mind: Finau was frustrated but never lost confidence in his own game.
“I knew that I was a closer; the way that I play on Sundays tells me that I’m a closer and when I look at my scores, I’ve made clutch putts. Just sometimes this game is funny. Guys get away with shots or whatever the case. I feel like I’ve got the short end of the stick for the most part coming down the stretch and having a chance to win a golf tournament. This time, I was able to capitalize when I needed to and I got the breaks when I needed them, so I ended up on top this time,” he said.
That’s an extremely rational take. Winning a golf tournament isn’t like winning a tennis match; you don’t have control over what your opponent is going to do. You can’t do much to stop him making birdie on the final two holes to take you down. And while the Finau detractors weren’t necessarily wrong — he hadn’t sealed the deal — Finau’s best chance of winning was essentially continuing to do exactly what he was doing.
It worked. One more bit from Finau:
“But as far as a little bit of unfairness, I feel like for sure, when it comes to looking at my record, because I’ve played really nicely on Sunday for the most part. We don’t have to look too far from other than my last playoff. I shot 64 at Riviera. Say what you want but that sounds like a pretty good player to me and a closer to me when you’re in contention, shooting 64 on a golf course like that. I’ve had a lot of great rounds on Sunday. It’s nice to have this one and be able to capitalize on it with a W.”
Finau shot 65 on Monday, the lowest round in the field. Well done.
Who won the week?
Anna Nordqvist won the AIG Women’s Open, the third major of her career. Some golfers win majors in bunches, but Nordqvist has spread hers out; the first came in 2009, the next in 2017, the next on Sunday.
Three majors is rarified air in the golf world. Here’s the entire list of active LPGA pros with three or more majors:
That’s it! And it’s worth noting that Davies is 57 years old and Tseng hasn’t made a cut since the 2018 season. Nordqvist just won her way straight into the record books.
Tony Finau won the Northern Trust, his first victory since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and just his second career PGA Tour win. But when it comes to Finau, two is a much larger number than one.
Johannes Veerman won the Czech Masters, the first European Tour title of the 29-year-old American’s career. The win leapt him to No. 106 in the world.
Greyson Sigg won the Albertson’s Boise Open in surprising fashion when Aaron Rai made double bogey on No. 18 to squander a one-shot lead. Sigg now takes over the top spot in the Korn Ferry Finals and will enter the PGA Tour in style next season.
So close, and yet…
Nanna Koerstz Madsen was in position to challenge for the Women’s Open title before hitting a now-infamous shank out of the greenside bunker at Carnoustie’s 18th. (It was a much harder shot than people are describing, for what it’s worth!) She finished T5, a shot behind the runner-up trio of Madeline Sagstrom, Georgia Hall and Lizette Salas.
Jon Rahm looked like a surefire champion at the Northern Trust, stuffing approach shots and playing mistake-free golf until making bogey at No. 15. That bogey, plus a back-nine 30 from Finau, added up to a solo third-place finish.
Cameron Smith earned solo second, and while his tournament could be remembered for his tee shot in the playoff — a drive he described as “a little bottomy and a little bit heely and it just blew up in the wind and went a long ways right” — let’s remember the good times instead, like his miraculous up-and-down for double bogey at No. 5 or the way he played his final 11 holes in five under par to get into a playoff to begin with.
And on the European Tour, Henrik Stenson showed with a T4 finish, his best result since winning the 2019 Hero World Challenge.
A requiem for the big names.
Before we move on, let’s acknowledge a few very talented golfers who didn’t crack the top 70 and won’t be advancing to this week’s BMW Championship. Here are five names that surprised me:
Matthew Wolff (No. 71)
The odd man out as the BMW field gets chopped to 70 is Matthew Wolff. This isn’t surprising given his recent schedule — Wolff has taken some time away from the Tour as he’s been focusing on his mental health — but it’s surprising given he began the season with a runner-up finish at the U.S. Open and followed that with another runner-up a week later at the Shriners in Las Vegas.
Matthew Fitzpatrick (No. 73)
Matthew Fitzpatrick is No. 24 in the world and has several notable top finishes this season — but they’ve come on the European Tour, where he won the DP World Tour Championship and finished T2 at the Scottish Open.
Tyrrell Hatton (No. 74)
That’s right. Tyrrell Hatton, World No. 14, can’t crack the second round of the FedEx Cup Playoffs — and it’s largely for the same reason as Fitzpatrick. The Englishman won the BMW PGA and Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship at the end of 2020 but managed just three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour this season.
Adam Scott (No. 90)
You’d be hard-pressed to find someone with a more dramatic before-after than Adam Scott and his quarantine layoff. In early 2020, he won the Australian Open and the Genesis Invitational in back-to-back starts to ascent to No. 6 in the world. Then came Covid-19. And while his missed cut at the Northern Trust was just his second of the PGA Tour season, he has managed just two top-10s.
Matt Kuchar (No. 122)
I just always assume Matt Kuchar is going to be in these things, but he closed the season on a run of WD-MC-MC-MC-MC-T29-MC, which didn’t help his cause.
WHAT WE’RE WATCHING
Bryson DeChambeau announced he’s playing in the World Long Drive Championship. The event begins the day after the Ryder Cup, which will open DeChambeau up to some second-guessing if he seems distracted during the U.S. Team’s competition.
But it’s also fascinating. We know how hard DeChambeau has been working on his distance — how does that stack up against the long-bomb experts?! And DeChambeau insists more speed training will only make him better.
“I know this will translate to me being able to swing at higher speeds on the course, which as I’ve said many times will make me a better golfer every time I tee it up on the PGA Tour,” he told our Luke Kerr-Dineen.
If you’re intrigued in DeChambeau’s chances of winning, well, oddsmakers aren’t impressed. Via sportsbetting.ag:
Will Bryson DeChambeau win the 2021 PLDA World Championship?
Yes +2000 (20/1)
No -10000 (1/100)
Bryson DeChambeau longest drive
Over 410.5 yards
Under 410.5 yards
There are a few things in sports that are weird and beautiful and fun. Position players coming in to pitch in baseball. Emergency goalies getting the call in hockey. Linemen kicking extra points in football. And golfers putting with wedges.
It’s official Monday Finish policy to post anytime a player ends up snapping his putter and carrying on with wedge the rest of the way, and Viktor Hovland made it just eight holes on Monday before making the switch. The putter smash came after an unfortunate quadruple bogey dropped him from contention.
Diving into the numbers, Hovland was essentially neutral with the putter through eight holes (-0.22 strokes gained) and then lost 2.95 strokes the rest of the way — so perhaps he shouldn’t make the full-time switch away from putter. Still, he poured in three wedge-putting birdies and he three-wedged just once on the green, at No. 15. Good times!
NEWS FROM SEATTLE
Monday Finish HQ.
One of the local munis, Walter Hall, used a batch of mislabeled chemicals to treat their greens and wiped ’em all out instead. Oops!
Also, I reached a new personal low Monday evening when I sustained an injury spiralizing zucchini noodles, aka zoodles. Imagine taking the joy out of pasta and slicing your thumb in the process. Then imagine writing the Tuesday Finish without a right thumb! Truly a dark moment.
Three things to watch.
He’s been very clearly the best golfer in the world for months now. After another close call, will he dial it in at the BMW this week?
Ryder Cup Bubble Boys
Finau’s in, if not officially, on the strength of this week’s performance. Who else is going to step up this week and play his way through the traffic jam of contenders?
Patrick Mahomes, Golf Nut
I’m biased because I’m in the video, but I love this “Warming Up” series we’ve started because it’s less like an interview and more like hanging out. Here’s some unfiltered access to Patrick Mahomes and yours truly, hitting balls at Augusta Country Club.
See you next week!