AUGUSTA, Ga. — Tony Finau’s hopes of winning the green jacket went kerplunk in Rae’s Creek Sunday afternoon at Augusta National’s No. 12 hole, where so many other golfers through the years have seen their Masters hopes die.
Finau came to the iconic hole just one shot behind eventual winner Tiger Woods only to see his 9-iron shot come up short of the 12th green and roll back into the water. He lost two shots because of the mistake and when he ended up the 72-hole tournament two shots behind Woods, in a tie for fifth place at 277, he figured that was the difference for him.
“For me 12 was the turning point. That was the tournament,” said Finau. “It’s a hard shot. Not my best swing and it ended up costing me.”
Before that hole, Finau had held it together, playing in the final group of the world’s biggest tournament with one of the greatest golfers of all time making a historic comeback.
He had made just one bogey on the day, at the tough par-4 5th hole, but got it back at the par-5 8th hole with a birdie. Then he bogeyed 10 when he missed a short par putt after recovering nicely from off the green with his third shot.
Then he came to the 12th hole, which has cost several other golfers in the final round over the years, including Utah’s Dan Forsman, who took a 7 there in 1993 when he was also one shot off the lead, and Jordan Spieth, who was leading in 2016 when he hit in the water twice and also took a 7.
It also cost three other golfers in Sunday’s final round.
In the group in front of Finau’s, both Ian Poulter and Brooks Koepka had hit their tee shots onto the bank and into the water and then Francesco Molinari did the same thing. Woods, hitting second in the final group, safely hit to the middle of the green before Finau came up.
“Fransesco had just hit it in the water and I knew I just had to hit it on land,” Finau lamented later. “It was perfect club for me. I barely hit it chunky and it kind of rolled on me. The line was OK and I thought it had a chance to fly on the green and unfortunately it didn’t.”
Give Finau credit for battling back as he made three birdies coming in, at 13, 15 and 16 when he sank putts in the 5-foot range to get back to 11-under, where he finished in a tie with Jason Day, Webb Simpson and Molinari.
As crazy as it was playing with Woods all day, Finau relished the experience.
“It was pretty much everything I expected,” he said. “I knew the crowd was going to be crazy for Tiger. It was cool to be part of history as far as witnessing up close and congrats to Tiger for his 15th major.”
Woods had some nice things to say about Finau afterward, after playing with him for the second time in a tournament.
“I mean (gosh) he hits it long,” Woods said. “He makes a little half swing and still hits the ball 310, 320 in the air. It’s just remarkable. Tony’s made some leaps in the last couple of years. He’s starting to piece together a game that’s going to contend week in and week out. With his length, it’s such an asset in today’s game that he’ll win multiple tournaments and I’m sure a major championship is definitely in his future.”
With his tie-for-fifth finish, Finau is assured of returning to the Masters next year as all golfers in the top 12 get an invite for the following year’s event. Finau feels Augusta National is a course that fits his game well.
“For me it’s exciting because I know I’m going to come back next year,” he said. “If you drive it with some length, you have a huge advantage here. I just feel that way when I’m driving the ball well, I’m going to have a chance to win here many years to come. I finished 10th last year, fifth this year, so hopefully keep that trend going and maybe one next year.”