Tony Finau could really use a top-drawer performance at the Masters this week at Augusta.
Will he? Can he?
Finau is talented enough. Augusta seems to fit his eye. He’s had three top-10 career finishes on this track, including finishing 10th last year at Augusta National.
One thing Finau does — which is necessary at Augusta — is hit cut shots off the tee and with his irons. It is the shape of his natural shot.
On Monday, Collin Morikawa told the media covering the Masters this week why that is so important.
“In a small package, it’s just really hitting cuts and hitting fairways. That’s as simple as it gets. Those are my strengths. Irons are my strength. How do I stick to that,” said Morikawa.
Added the young vet: “I remember when I came in November, other than one, two, I tried hitting a draw for no reason. You don’t have to hit a draw. (On) three I tried hitting a draw, which makes no sense. Five, I played it out right. Seven, I tried to hit a draw. Nine I tried to hit — so that’s more draws than I hit the entire year off tee shots, right?
“And really 10 and 13 are the only ones I need to move right to left. The other ones I can neutralize it and have it maybe fade a little bit less. But that was my issue. I’ve slowly worked my way out to where now I can just show up and feel comfortable on what tee shots I need to hit actual draws versus let’s hit it a little straight to a five-yard cut.”
In a tuneup for Augusta, Finau finished T29 at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio with a score of 6 under par. He had rounds of 70-71-72-69.
“Tony had a decent final round in San Antonio,” said Bobby Casper of Real Golf Radio. “Augusta has a way of elevating the player when they’ve had success there in the past. Tony’s played four times and has three top-10 finishes. I think he’ll have another good finish this week.”
NinetoFive Sports lists Finau as the No. 4 player in the field this week, behind No. 1 Jon Rahm, Justin Thomas and Xander Schauffele.
As we all know the Masters takes plays in Georgia.— NinetoFiveSports (@925_Sports) April 4, 2022
Below are the best golfers in Georgia.
1) Jon Rahm
2) Justin Thomas
3) Xander Schauffele
4) Tony Finau
5) Hideki Matsuyama
6) Patrick Reed
7) Cameron Smith
8) Abraham Ancer
9) Tiger Woods
10) Jordan Spieth
Earlier in March, Finau went 1-2-0 in the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play. As a No. 18 seed, he lost to No. 39 Lucas Herbert and No. 56 Takumi Kanaya before rising up and defeating No. 8 Schauffele, 4 and 2.
Longtime Finau watchers inside Utah’s golf media are mixed about Finau showing well.
“In 2019, Tony played in the final group with Tiger when he went on to win his (Tiger’s) fifth Masters,” said Casper, son of Hall of Famer Billy Casper. “I think he learned a lot on how to play the course from one of the best of all time. But Tony loves the place and he’s starting to play better.”
The missed cuts and fading during weekend rounds this young season has some concerned that Finau may have been distracted by his participation in a Netflix docuseries that peeks into the life of PGA Players during majors.
But golf is a game where a player with Finau’s talent can absolutely find a gear. Finau remains a scary player who has made his mark in Ryder Cup play among the best and has earned a right to be more than competitive in majors.
“Tony always plays well at Augusta and of course, he’s a player to watch. Hopefully he puts some good rounds together this week,” said Randy Dodson, publisher of Fairways Magazine, official voice of the Utah Golf Association.
“It was nice to see him play well in Texas. He’ll need to find some extra motivation to kick his game up a level to get into contention this week. His past results there say his game fits this major. Wouldn’t we all love to see Tony and Tiger in the final group?” said Dodson.
PGA Tour veteran Zac Blair, one of Utah’s most prolific amateur golfers before he turned professional after his BYU career, has played with both Finau and Tiger Woods. Superstar Woods is expected to play this year’s Masters.
Blair says experience is key.
“Tony’s had a really good track record, especially the last four years. Seems like he’s always in the hunt,” said Blair of Finau’s competitiveness in majors. Blair spoke to ABC4 locally about Finau and Woods last week. Blair once played alongside Woods in a major and beat him that day as Woods carded a round in the 80s.
As for Tiger and experience, Blair explained, “We’ve seen in the past that people who are older do well there because they have so much experience. They know where to miss it, places to attack, places to play conservatively, and there are a lot of holes where you just need to know where things are going with the breaks on the greens. Tiger has more insight about that than anybody.”
ABC4 sportscaster Wes Ruff said that despite Finau’s great record at Augusta, he doesn’t hold much hope the Utahn will enjoy a good finish. “The course sets up well for him, but he hasn’t played well in 2022. This T29 at the Texas Open was a good sign, but you have to have your ‘A’ game at Augusta to contend.”
Finau is kind of an enigma. He has an easygoing manner, which keeps him on an even keel. That’s good for golf because you can shake off bad holes or swings more easily. But he also has a penchant for really playing well then fading on Saturday and Sunday — needing killer rounds when he’s got the field looking at his name on the leaderboard.
He needs to putt better and more consistently when money putts come his way. He went five years with nine runner-up finishes before winning a playoff for the title at the Northern Trust tournament this past year.
When Finau is on, he is on, however.
Arizona State freshman Preston Summerhays recalls a round of golf he played with Finau and Rahm at Silverleaf Club in Scottsdale.
Summerhays’ father Boyd has been Finau’s swing coach since 2014.
Remembers young Preston: “I birdied my first seven holes. I’ve never done that. I parred the super-easy par 5. I birdied 9 to get to 8-under. It’s funny because as soon as we got to the turn, we’re talking about, like — obviously, 59 is in my head. We’re talking about the longest birdie streaks, and Tony’s talking about how his longest birdie streak is seven. And then he goes on to birdie the last eight and shoots 59.”
Finau has played in 23 majors in his career. He has 10 top-10 finishes in those 23 appearances.
That is impressive.