Tony Finau dominates in Texas — notches third win in four months
It must be comforting to be Tony Finau in 2022, when, during your biggest moments, the broadcasters focus almost entirely on the race for second place. That was the case once again Sunday afternoon as Finau polished off his third win of the calendar year, and third in his last seven PGA Tour starts.
Finau was up four strokes on the field — or was it five? — when he teed off on the 72nd hole, so naturally the broadcast turned its focus to Tyson Alexander and Ben Taylor who were battling for the silver and a bunch of FedEx Cup points. Those points might save their PGA Tour status 10 months from now — it’s a big deal. Big Tone’s status is a certified winner now, reaching the five-win career mark. And he keeps doing it by a lot.
“I’m a scoreboard watcher,” Finau said after tapping in for a final par from one inch away. “In a position to win a tournament, you want to know what you’ve got to do. It was different nerves, I’ve never been in that position before where I was that far in front. I mean, I could get used to that, that’s a nice feeling to have.”
He may not think he’s been up that much before, but Finau’s victory at the Houston Open was the third time this year he’s won by at least three shots or more, and it could have been much worse. Finau actually lead by eight as he made the turn to the back nine Sunday afternoon. But eight was so big that it freaked him out a bit. “It’s an interesting mindset,” Finau said later. “Yeah, a little bit of don’t screw it up, or maybe if we hit some good shots we can extend this lead. You kind of live in the middle. I felt like I kind of lived in the middle out there.”
It was only after a trio of harmless bogeys on the back nine — Finau said he got impatient with the pace of play — that anyone began to discuss this event as still hanging in the balance. But then Finau polished off what remained with three ho-hum pars, never flirting with disaster. When you establish a lead that big, and you hit it as far as he does, and you putt as consistently as he did? Finau becomes nearly impossible to catch, especially on a course like Memorial Park, which plays harder than most on the PGA Tour. He kicked off the tournament with the round of the day Thursday and then added to it with the round of the day Friday.
“Overall this was a special week,” he said. “You know, I won this golf tournament from start to finish. I don’t know if I’ve done that in my career, maybe at Rocket Mortgage, but to have played that well for four straight days, that’s what it’s all about and all the hard work is starting to pay off, which is fun.”
Finau finished second in the field in Strokes Gained: Off the Tee and also second in Strokes Gained: Putting. That wins a lot of the time. It helped that he finished ninth in SG: Approach, hitting more than 80% of greens in regulation throughout the weekend.
“I’m starting to put together a full package game, which is really exciting for me,” Finau said. “That’s all you can do is work hard and I’ve worked extremely hard on parts of the game that I know I have to and I think it’s starting to show.”
When Finau says a “full package game,” he’s not joking. The last three years have seen him become above average in every aspect of the game. There is no weakness that undercuts him in the same way weaknesses undercut some of the best ball-strikers on the planet. So when Finau putts it like he did this week, well, we’re all going to be wondering who is in the running for second place. In this case, it was Tyson Alexander with a birdie on the last.