Tony Finau held off Jon Rahm, the No. 1 player in the world, and then beat Australia’s hottest player and Olympian Cameron Smith in a one-hole playoff to win the Northern Trust Open, the first leg of the three-tournament FedEx PGA Playoffs on Monday at Liberty National in Jersey City, New Jersey.
Folks have wondered when — if ever— Finau would win again on the PGA Tour after his first win in 2016 in Puerto Rico Open some 1,975 days ago. After 11 top-three finishes on tour and struggling to finish strong in Sunday final rounds, it took a Monday after a Sunday cancellation of the final round due to East Coast weather for Finau to win again.
Finau, who lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, calls Lehi, Utah, his home. He earned $1.71 million with the victory. His Monday Round 4 score was 6-under par. For the tournament, he shot rounds of 67-64-68 and his final day 65.
“It is amazing,” Finau said on CBS after his win. “After 10 we knew we would have to get it to 20-under to have a chance.”
Indeed, Finau blistered the back nine by going 5-under-par in five holes to take a one-stroke lead in the clubhouse. Smith made birdie on No. 17 and his par on 18 kept a tie with Finau heading into the playoff.
It was Smith who crumbled in the playoff hole, pushing his tee shot out of bounds after Finau striped his driver down the middle of No. 18.
The win elevates Finau from No. 14 to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup standings, 585 points ahead of Rahm. Finau’s win came over a field of 125 of the world’s best players.
“All I know is I am a lot different player than I was then,” Finau told reporters afterwards when asked about his five-year drought without a win. “I’m a lot better player and I feel like it’s been a long time coming but I also feel like you have to earn everything out here. Nothin’s given to you and I was able to earn this win, and you know, hopefully, the future continues to be bright.”
The next playoff tournament will be cut to the Top 75 at next week’s second leg, the BMW Championship at Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Maryland.
“It took everything I had,” said Finau, whose putter came alive in this event. “I fought and it is pretty cool I’m standing here again.”
After making birdie on No. 12, Finau made an eagle from inside 4 feet on the par-5 No. 13. He then birdied No. 14 and 16 coming home. His birdie on No. 16 gave him the lead as Rahm began to fold down the back nine after beginning the day with a two-shot lead after the first nine holes.
“I’m playing some great golf. We’ve got two big tournaments in front of me, so I’m going to enjoy this one. I feel like I can go on a run, so why not continue right on to next week.”
Finau said he has been thinking about that walk up No. 18 in control of a win for a very long time. “This is extremely special. I though my first one was going to be my most important on but I actually think this one (is). It validates the first one but because of how long I’ve had to wait, I’m a totally different golf player because of how long I’ve had to wait. Nothing has come easy for me. I’ve lost in playoffs, taken second, third in major championships. I’ve persevered and that’s been the biggest key. I haven’t given up on myself and my team.
Finau’s win comes after 143 starts without a victory.