The Z-shaped 43-foot downhill putt Tony Finau made on the 18th hole in the RBC Canadian Open at St. George Golf Club was a remarkable stroke of geometrical golf shotmaking. And it gave him a solo second-place finish behind the winner, Rory McIlroy, and ahead of Justin Thomas in third.
It also earned him a check for more than $900,000. But in golf, sometimes there are more important things than money.
It was a circus putt. It had to be perfect. It hit the hole dead center with the right speed and gravity manipulation. It has to be one of the top five putts he’s made as a professional player.
That putt and all of his play last week has given him a shot of confidence heading into this week’s U.S. Open Championship at The Country Club in Brookline, Massachusetts.
“This is big. I’m looking forward to next week,” Finau told the media after the Canadian Open. “I’ve never seen Brookline, but any time you’re coming off a good solid performance, no matter what you place, it always gives you confidence. So it definitely has given me confidence this week. My game is sharp and I’m looking forward to seeing the golf course next week and getting after it.”
Bobby Casper of Real Golf Radio and son of Hall of Famer and U.S. Open champion Billy Casper sees a nice momentum gain for Finau.
“Tony had a great week with his second-place finish in Canada. His ball-striking was great and his putting came around, especially his longer putts. It’s all coming together at a great time and will provide momentum going into the U.S. Open.
“Tony’s putting has held him up a little this year, but it’s coming around. My dad always said that the most important thing with putting is keeping your head still. He always used to say “keep your head still and see the putter hit the back of the ball,” said Casper.
“Being in the last group with Rory and Justin Thomas and shooting the score he did had to have been a huge uplift for Tony. All three are elite players in the world and to be able to hang with the current PGA champion and another that has won 22 times with four majors will help him this week at the U.S. Open.”
Finau did miss two short putts for birdies that would have put him in a playoff or possibly led to a win last Sunday.
But nobody can argue last week produced some outstanding long makes by Finau, a native of Salt Lake City. He shot an impressive 6 under par in the final round with no bogeys. He had half a dozen one-putts. His final-round 64 would have been good enough for a win if not for McIlroy’s outstanding effort.
Finau has struggled with his putting during his PGA Tour career. In Sunday’s final round, however, his birdie putts included a 20-footer on No. 13, an 18-footer on No. 2 and the thrilling 43-footer on 18.
There is evidence that if a player like Finau, who is a member of the power club of golf, gets hot with the putter, he’s a prime candidate to win a U.S. Open.
Because U.S. Opens favor the long drivers who are accurate and can hit high approach shots into hard greens that are tough to hold. If they can be creative around the greens, it is a plus. And the capability of making putts is a necessity. The last five champions were power players: Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Gary Woodland, Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm.
Finau comes to Brookline with another stat in his favor. Though he struggled early on this season, he has lately moved up the charts in total driving figures, which measure not only length of tee shots but accuracy in hitting fairways. He was 22nd last week at the Canadian Open in this category, 27th at the Charles Schwab, 15th in the PGA Championship and No. 3 at Wells Fargo
Last week, on a tricky par-70 course with ankle-deep rough, he was fourth in strokes gained around the green and fifth in strokes gained putting. In his last two rounds of 62-64, T2 was the result.
Nobody in the field at the Canadian Open went lower than Finau in the final 36 holes.
Throughout Finau’s career he’s generally had an easygoing temperament, a key in letting bad shots live in the past while honing in on what lies ahead. This is a trait both Tiger Woods and Jack Nicklaus mastered: compartmentalization. Staying in the moment.
History tells us Finau gets up for the majors. He has 10 top-10 finishes in 24 starts. This is against the world’s best on the toughest courses in the world. He was fifth at Shinnecock Hills in 2018, and eighth at Winged Foot in 2020.
Then there is the what-have-you-done-lately trend.
Finau has had two T2s and a fourth-place finish in his last five starts. His second-place finishes came to guys named McIlroy and Rahm.
That, folks, is a hot streak entering the U.S. Open.