With Jon Rahm winning the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in June, only a handful of golfers ranked higher in the Official World Golf Rankings than Utah’s Tony Finau are without a major championship to their credit.
The list includes No. 5 Xander Schauffele, No. 7 Patrick Cantlay, No. 10 Tyrrell Hatton, No. 12 Harris English, No. 14 Viktor Hovland and No. 16 Daniel Berger.
Having slid to No. 17 in the world recently and in a bit of a slump — by his standards — Finau takes aim at the final major on the 2021 calendar this week, The 149th Open at Royal St. George’s. He does so with not much fanfare after being a popular pick last month at Torrey Pines before missing the cut.
“There is nothing that I could tell him that will help him do any better. He’s been playing good. It is hard to win. Sometimes, you gotta get lucky, not only just play good.” — Former BYU golfer and PGA Tour regular Zac Blair on Tony Finau
Finau, 31, missed the cut the following week at the Travelers Championship in Connecticut, and has not played a competitive round since. He skipped the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit and the John Deere Classic in Illinois the past two weeks, so the West High graduate should be well-rested for the tournament folks on this side of “the pond” refer to as the British Open.
Finau’s swing coach, former Utah resident and PGA Tour player Boyd Summerhays, told the Deseret News on Tuesday that Finau will be “just fine” and “will likely contend” at The Open. Summerhays has never accompanied Finau to England for the tournament and isn’t there this week, either.
He’s with his son, two-time Utah State Amateur champion Preston Summerhays, at the PGA Tour’s Barbasol Championship. Preston Summerhays qualified to play in the Barbasol by winning the weather-shortened Barbasol Junior Championship in Kentucky earlier this month.
Finau played the first and second rounds of the U.S. Open with his right wrist taped, an indication that it was at least bothering him, to some extent, on his way to missing the 36-hole cut by four strokes. But he didn’t have the wrist taped the following week in Connecticut, suggesting it was a minor ailment.
The former Salt Lake City and Lehi resident who now lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, spent the July 4th weekend with his family at the Red Ledges luxury community in Heber City, Utah, and has reportedly worked hard to get his game back in sync, according to several friends.
Former PGA Tour regular and BYU golfer Zac Blair said last week at a news conference for the Utah State Amateur that there’s no reason for Utah golf fans to be concerned with Finau’s slump. Blair is recovering from November shoulder surgery and hopes to return to the tour late this fall or early next spring and join Finau.
“There is nothing that I could tell him that will help him do any better. He’s been playing good,” Blair said. “It is hard to win. Sometimes, you gotta get lucky, not only just play good.
“There have been times he has had a really good week, and maybe just one person has a better week. So it is kinda the way it goes,” Blair continued. “He will get it done. He knows that he is good enough. It is just a matter of time for him.”
Having missed consecutive cuts for the second time this year with rounds of 76-67 at The Travelers, Finau arrived at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England, last weekend and played a practice round Sunday with Jordan Spieth and Brandt Snedeker.
He apparently played a practice round by himself Tuesday, according to social media reports.
The Utahn has always played well in The Open, which is where he began his remarkable streak of making the cut in 14 of the past 16 majors (his only missed cuts were at the 2019 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach and last month at Torrey Pines, where he shot 74-76).
Finau tied for 18th at Royal Troon in 2016, tied for 27th at Royal Birkdale in 2017, tied for ninth at Carnoustie in 2018, and placed third in 2019 at Royal Portrush. The British Open was not held last year due to the pandemic.
Finau is the only golfer who finished in the top 10 in both 2018 and 2019 at the only major played outside the United States. Look for a fast start — he has been in the top five after the first round in three of his four British Open appearances.
Finau will be paired with Billy Horschel of the United States and Adam Hadwin of Canada in the first two rounds. The threesome will tee off Thursday morning at 5:53 a.m. MDT and Friday morning at 12:52 a.m. MDT.
Royal St. George’s is hosting The Open Championship for the 15th time, and first since 2011, when Irishman Darren Clarke won his first and only major.
At stake for Finau is not only a chance to rebound from having missed playing on the weekend in five of his last nine tournaments, but a possible berth on the U.S. Ryder Cup team as a captain’s pick for Steve Stricker.