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Utahns at the Masters: Tony Finau in contention, Mike Weir barely misses cut

Tony Finau hits on the second hole during the first round for the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
Tony Finau hits on the second hole during the first round for the Masters golf tournament Thursday, April 11, 2019, in Augusta, Ga. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)
AP

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tony Finau was all smiles after his round Friday at Augusta National.

Mike Weir was scowling after his.

The difference between the two Utah golfers playing at the Masters Tournament was that Finau had just shot a 2-under-par 70 to put him within four shots of the lead, while Weir shot a 76 to miss the cut by just one shot.

The 29-year-old Finau, playing in his second Masters, stands at 141, just four behind the five co-leaders. That leaves him in a tie for 16th place with a bunch of the world’s top golfers ahead of him on the leaderboard.

“I feel good, that was a good round,” he said. “Four shots off the pace is well in contention. I think it’s going to be a fun weekend.”

The weekend won’t be so fun for Sandy's Weir, the 2003 Masters champion who put himself in good shape with an opening 72 but struggled with his short game and missed the cut for the fifth straight year.

“Just awful, my short game was just horrendous,” said a clearly perturbed Weir. “You can’t do that around here. I have to have a good short game to play well here. The rest of my game was very good, but when you don’t putt well or chip well or wedge it well. … It was very disappointing.”

Like he did in the first round, Weir went to 3-over on the front nine, this time with bogeys at holes 2, 4 and 9 to put himself below the cut line. But he came back strong on the back nine with birdies at 13 and 14 and just missed another at No. 15. After just missing a long birdie putt at No. 16, he hit it long and left with his second shot at No. 17 and couldn’t get up and down for par and then missed another long birdie putt at 18.

Finau was consistent all day as he made seven straight pars before sinking a 5-foot birdie putt at the par-5 8th hole. He had made a great up and down out of a tough lie in the bunker at No. 7, but couldn’t do the same at No. 9 after hitting in the sand and made his only bogey of the day.

He came back with a birdie at No. 10 with a 10-foot putt and when play was briefly suspended for a half hour he faced a 130-yard approach shot at the par-5 15th after an errant tee shot forced him to hit a high flop shot over the trees.

“That was the shot of the tournament for me,” he said of his wedge shot that ended up five feet away. “I pulled my tee shot and I had nothing and had to lay up. I still had 130 yards — not the shot you want to be thinking about when play was stopped. I made birdie and I thought that was huge I felt like I needed on more.”

Finau is actually a shot better than last year when he was 2-under 142 after rounds of 68 and 74 and trailed the leader by seven shots. He went on to finish in a tie for 10th place last year.

Finau feels like he still has some great golf left for the final two rounds.

“I feel like I’ve played some good golf, but I haven’t had any great stretches,” he said. “I know it’s a golf course I can score on. We’ve still got 36 holes. I know theres’a 65 or 66 in me and I’m going to need one on the weekend.”

MASTERS NOTES: Play was suspended for a half hour late in the afternoon because of thunderstorms in the area. However, they never materiaized and it just rained lightly the rest of the day. … Finau is No. 1 in the field in driving distance this week at Augusta at 318.1 yards. … A year ago, 53 golfers made the cut at 149, while this year 65 golfers made the cut at 147. Among those who missed it besides Weir were former champions Sergio Garcia, Danny Willett and Charl Schwartzel.