Finau Finally

Outlasts Rahm and Smith down the stretch

Northern Trust 2021 R4

Estimated reading time: 12 minutes


JERSEY CITY, NJ. Okay, the total had run up to 1,975 days and 143 starts but for Tony Finau that news is in his rear-view mirror after capturing his second PGA TOUR title with an impressive final round performance in winning the Northern Trust on the first extra hole in a playoff with Cameron Smith.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

Coming into the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, the 31-year-old Utah native had demonstrated a capacity to get into contention — eleven times in the top three along with eight runner-up finishes since his lone victory in Puerto Rico in March 2016. 

No person questioned Finau’s talent but whispers resonated. Questioning his ability to successfully play down the stretch when events are won or lost. That anchor around his neck was a weight he certainly wanted to remove. His candor on the topic was equally straightforward.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

“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.”:

His play on Monday showed his resolve in outplaying the world number one player in Jon Rahm and outlasting the talented 28-year-old Australian Smith.

How good was Finau’s play?

His six-under-par 65 was the best round of the day and his move up the leaderboard commenced with a birdie at the 12th hole and was aided emphatically by a six-iron second shot at the par-5 13th to three and a half feet that resulted in an eagle. 


Northern Trust 2021 R4

A birdie followed at the short par-3 14th after sinking a 25-foot birdie putt.

But a fortunate situation happened for Finau at the demanding par-4 15th. A badly pulled tee shot landed in the adjoining 6th fairway and he was able to escape with a critical par to keep his forward momentum going.

“I think a big turning point was No. 15. I pulled my tee shot and I actually pulled it so far left that it just went over to No. 6 fairway and I had a clear shot straight to the green,” said Finau.

He played a deft chip shot at the driveable par-4 16th resulting in another birdie and a tie for the lead with Rahm.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

Finau executed a solid drive at the par-4 17th but a lackluster sand wedge from 115 yards left him 30 feet short of the hole. Nearly making the putt Finau then proceeded to the final hole with the tournament clearly in the balance.

Finau waited over ten minutes on the 18th before teeing off. His drive was unerring but his approach veered to the right finding a greenside bunker on the short side. At that point one could only wonder if past hiccups,which had kept Finau out of the winner’s circle, would resurface.

Not to be denied, Finau executed a quality bunker shot to five feet and then holed the putt with a confident stroke.

Smith played equally well over the final several holes. The Aussie birdied the 16th and 17th holes to draw into a tie with Finau. A missed birdie putt from 23 feet at the final hole sent the event into a playoff between the two.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

The playoff was anti-climactic as Smith hit his drive out-of-bounds right and Finau was able to quickly wrap up matters with a closing par.

“You’ve got to get the bounces when you need them. I needed that on 15. I needed to get away with that swing, and making par on 15, I think is picking up shots. That little sequence there at 13, 14, 15,” said Finau. “I thought was huge to kind of keep me on top of the leaderboard and then I was able to play nice golf all the way through and right through the playoff.”

So, what happens now? 

Finau’s victory propels him back into the top ten in the world rankings — he’s 9th now — matching his highest position since being ranked there in December 2018. Finau’s victory, in all likelihood, assures him of being one of Steve Stricker’s captain picks for this year’ Ryder Cup Matches unless he moves into a top six slot which automatically assures him of a selection. 


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Northern Trust 2021 R4

Finau had played in the 2018 matches in Paris and was a USA team member for the Presidents Cup team which competed in Australia in 2019.

Holding the trophy after the presentation Finau summed it up in the following manner. “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.”

Yes — finally Finau.

Architecture - Liberty National GC
Courtesy Liberty National Golf Club

Northern Trust 2021 R4


Odds and ends

* Jon Rahm was in the perfect position in earning his first victory since claiming the U.S. Open this past June. The Spaniard started the final round tied for the lead with Smith and when he stepped to the tee at the par- 4 15th the probability of a win looked very promising. But a pulled tee shot resulted in missing a five-foot par putt which dropped the world’s number one player into a tie with Finau. At the short par-4 16th Rahm flubbed a short pitch shot and left a hole where birdie should have happened. At the 17th a pushed tee shot had him scrambling for a par out of a greenside bunker. Only one shot back when teeing off at the final hole — Rahm found a left fairway bunker and ended his round with a woeful bogey and a disappointing 3rd place finish. 


Northern Trust 2021 R4

* Patrick Reed, who withdrew from the Northern Trust prior to the start of the event, was hospitalized for bilateral pneumonia in a Houston hospital where he is recovering. Reed shared the information with Golf Channel’s Todd Lewis who posted the information. Reed cited an ankle injury when he pulled out of the Northern Trust and will not compete in the BMW event in the greater Baltimore area this week. Reed is 26th in the playoff standings and only the top 30 will move onto The Tour Championship in Atlanta at East Lake.

* Jordan Spieth, who moved into contention with a 62 during the second round, spiraled out of contention with weekend rounds of 72 and 79 respectively. The latter included back-to-back triple bogeys at the 9th and 10th holes — eventually tumbling to a 73rd finish. A Ryder Cup selection is highly likely for the Texan.

* Leading English players Tyrell Hatton, 14th in the world, and Matthew Fitzpatrick ranked 24th, could very well be playing for Team Europe in the upcoming Ryder Cup Matches but neither man will be continuing for the second playoff event at Caves Valley after finishing outside the top 70 at Liberty National. Joining Hatton and Fitzpatrick on the sidelines from going to Baltimore is Scotsman Martin Laird and England’s Ian Poulter.

* PGA champion Phil Mickelson will move on in the playoffs but barely so – ger snared the final position in the 70th slot.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

* In three consecutive weeks, a player has held at least a share of the lead after each of the first three rounds and failed to qualify for a playoff:

Jon Rahm, The Northern Trust
Russell Henley, Wyndham Championship
Harris English, WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational

* Keith Mitchell punched his ticket to Baltimore with three consecutive birdies at the final three holes. Mitchell started the week in the 101st position and is now in the 63rd position.

* Special kudos to the grounds crew at Liberty National in dealing with over nine inches of rain that fell on the course from late Saturday night through the early morning hours of Monday — courtesy of tropical storm Henri. The team worked through Sunday night in successfully preparing the course in time for Monday’s round to commence after two pushbacks that morning. Play commenced at 11:30 AM local time and was completing just after 7:00 PM. Given the deluge of water from the storm the PGA TOUR opted not to have spectators on property for the final round.


Northern Trust 2021 R4

Pos.
Player
To Par
R1
R2
R3
R4
Total
1
Tony Finau
-20
67
64
68
65
264
2
Cameron Smith
-20
69
68
60
67
264
3
Jon Rahm
-18
63
67
67
69
266
T4
Tom Hoge
-15
69
64
67
69
269
T4
Alex Noren
-15
69
64
70
66
269
T4
Justin Thomas
-15
63
69
67
70
269
7
Erik van Rooyen
-14
69
67
62
72
270
T8
Corey Conners
-13
70
69
62
70
271
T8
Keith Mitchell
-13
68
64
70
69
271
T8
Kevin Na
-13
67
66
70
68
271
T11
Keegan Bradley
-12
69
67
67
69
272
T11
Patrick Cantlay
-12
68
67
69
68
272
T11
Shane Lowry
-12
71
67
62
72
272
T11
Hudson Swafford
-12
71
65
66
70
272
T11
Harold Varner III
-12
66
67
68
71
272
T16
Harry Higgs
-11
69
70
66
68
273
T16
Sungjae Im
-11
71
65
67
70
273
T16
Pat Perez
-11
71
66
66
70
273
T16
Xander Schauffele
-11
70
62
70
71
273
T16
Robert Streb
-11
67
68
69
69
273
T21
Sam Burns
-10
71
67
64
72
274
T21
Stewart Cink
-10
71
68
66
69
274
T21
Charley Hoffman
-10
73
65
65
71
274
T21
Sebastián Muñoz
-10
68
69
68
69
274
T21
Cameron Tringale
-10
67
68
67
72
274
T21
Aaron Wise
-10
69
67
68
70
274
T27
Cameron Champ
-9
68
70
67
70
275
T27
Mackenzie Hughes
-9
67
69
69
70
275
T27
Maverick McNealy *
-9
69
70
69
67
275
T27
Lee Westwood
-9
70
65
68
72
275
T31
Joel Dahmen
-8
70
68
67
71
276
T31
Cam Davis *
-8
69
70
68
69
276
T31
Bryson DeChambeau *
-8
71
65
72
68
276
T31
Harris English *
-8
69
68
70
69
276
T31
Doug Ghim
-8
71
70
63
72
276
T31
Talor Gooch
-8
73
67
66
70
276
T31
Billy Horschel *
-8
71
70
66
69
276
T31
Brooks Koepka
-8
70
64
68
74
276
T31
Ian Poulter *
-8
72
66
71
67
276
T31
Seamus Power *
-8
70
67
70
69
276
T31
Chez Reavie *
-8
71
66
71
68
276
T31
Adam Schenk
-8
73
64
69
70
276
T43
Viktor Hovland
-7
68
67
65
77
277
T43
Hideki Matsuyama *
-7
69
68
70
70
277
T43
Rory McIlroy *
-7
71
70
66
70
277
T43
Scottie Scheffler *
-7
70
68
69
70
277
T47
Max Homa *
-6
74
66
70
68
278
T47
Zach Johnson
-6
70
66
70
72
278
T47
K.H. Lee *
-6
71
68
69
70
278
T47
Marc Leishman *
-6
69
70
69
70
278
T47
Peter Malnati *
-6
70
69
70
69
278
T47
Joaquin Niemann
-6
71
70
65
72
278
T47
Carlos Ortiz *
-6
69
70
68
71
278
T47
Webb Simpson *
-6
72
66
72
68
278
T47
Brandt Snedeker *
-6
72
68
68
70
278
T56
Daniel Berger *
-5
71
70
67
71
279
T56
Dylan Frittelli *
-5
70
71
71
67
279
T56
Russell Henley *
-5
69
71
71
68
279
T56
Kramer Hickok *
-5
72
68
68
71
279
T56
Chris Kirk *
-5
72
68
68
71
279
T56
Patton Kizzire
-5
70
67
69
73
279
T56
Anirban Lahiri *
-5
69
69
71
70
279
T56
Andrew Putnam *
-5
69
70
72
68
279
T64
Abraham Ancer *
-4
72
69
67
72
280
T64
Paul Casey *
-4
70
71
66
73
280
T64
Lanto Griffin *
-4
69
68
73
70
280
T64
Garrick Higgo *
-4
69
68
70
73
280
T64
Scott Piercy *
-4
71
70
73
66
280
T64
Kevin Streelman *
-4
69
70
71
70
280
70
Luke List *
-1
71
70
70
72
283
T71
James Hahn *
E
71
70
71
72
284
T71
Denny McCarthy *
E
73
68
72
71
284
73
Jordan Spieth
+1
72
62
72
79
285
74
Gary Woodland *
+2
71
70
68
77
286
75
Brian Harman *
+3
72
66
76
73
287
CUT
Emiliano Grillo
E
70
72
142
CUT
Dustin Johnson
E
70
72
142
CUT
Si Woo Kim
E
72
70
142
CUT
Russell Knox
E
70
72
142
CUT
Jason Kokrak
E
70
72
142
CUT
Martin Laird
E
73
69
142
CUT
Tyler McCumber
E
72
70
142
CUT
Ryan Palmer
E
73
69
142
CUT
Sam Ryder
E
72
70
142
CUT
Adam Scott
E
67
75
142
CUT
Kyle Stanley
E
75
67
142
CUT
Jhonattan Vegas
E
70
72
142
CUT
Matt Fitzpatrick
+1
73
70
143
CUT
Sergio Garcia
+1
75
68
143
CUT
Brice Garnett
+1
72
71
143
CUT
Lucas Glover
+1
74
69
143
CUT
Chesson Hadley
+1
75
68
143
CUT
Adam Long
+1
72
71
143
CUT
Charl Schwartzel
+1
72
71
143
CUT
Sepp Straka
+1
73
70
143
CUT
Bubba Watson
+1
71
72
143
CUT
Branden Grace
+2
71
73
144
CUT
Tyrrell Hatton
+2
72
72
144
CUT
Collin Morikawa
+2
74
70
144
CUT
Matthew NeSmith
+2
74
70
144
CUT
Brian Gay
+3
72
73
145
CUT
Adam Hadwin
+3
75
70
145
CUT
Hank Lebioda
+3
76
69
145
CUT
Troy Merritt
+3
72
73
145
CUT
Phil Mickelson
+3
73
72
145
CUT
Henrik Norlander
+3
70
75
145
CUT
C.T. Pan
+3
74
71
145
CUT
Doc Redman
+3
73
72
145
CUT
Scott Stallings
+3
74
71
145
CUT
Brendan Steele
+3
78
67
145
CUT
Brian Stuard
+3
73
72
145
CUT
Jason Day
+4
73
73
146
CUT
Brandon Hagy
+5
78
69
147
CUT
Richy Werenski
+5
76
71
147
CUT
Wyndham Clark
+6
78
70
148
CUT
Brendon Todd
+6
73
75
148
CUT
Matt Jones
+7
79
70
149
CUT
Matt Kuchar
+7
75
74
149
CUT
Kevin Kisner
+8
76
74
150
CUT
Matthew Wolff
+8
76
74
150
CUT
Roger Sloan
+9
79
72
151
CUT
J.T. Poston
+11
76
77
153
WD
Matt Wallace
E
* Player started on the back nine
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