ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Tony Finau enters his sixth Open Championship and first Open at the Old Course at St. Andrews this week coming off a two-week break.
The 32-year-old Utah native seems rested and confident. He also has paced himself quite deliberately in his practice rounds this week, never playing more than nine holes each day in the lead-up to this final major championship of 2022, on one of golf’s biggest stages.
So what have been some keys to this week during his prep work?
“I’ve had the last couple weeks off so I’ve been able to work on flighting my ball,” Finau said. “It’s so much about controlling your ball out here because of the shots we hit into the wind and also the fast way the golf course is playing, shots are really running out. So it’s something I’ve been working on with my ball flight. I have (flighted shots) in my arsenal, I’ve just had to really focus on it recently.”
A number of players seem to be working on every practice habit possible when stepping on the sprawling driving range at St. Andrews, so what in particular relative to his swing is Finau tinkering with at the moment?
“Not really any drills, it’s more about finding the proper feels, and then I just try to take that to the course from the range,” Finau said. “Sometimes in the past I’ve looked at my setup and just made sure my left foot is a little more in front of my right. It’s all about the feel when I hit the golf ball. I want to keep my right shoulder underneath the club, keep my right foot on the ground through impact.”
As far as the course goes, Finau is quite happy with how his game sets up for it.
”I think it sets up great. I’ve had some good rounds around this place and I’ve played some nice rounds here in the Alfred Dunhill Links in the past, and that’s always a good thing for any course you go to,” Finau said. “Obviously, this is a different kind of beast the way it’s playing this week with the weather and the fast conditions, so I’m hoping to take advantage.”
Finau’s caddie, Mark Urbanek, is enthusiastic that his player can take advantage of a hard and fast St. Andrews. Urbanek told the Deseret News that the course sets up “perfectly” for Finau’s game because the bump-and-run options give him a chance to tap into one of his biggest strengths: his creativity.
Finau has two top-10 finishes in five Open Championships thus far, so that creativity has already come into play on recent links courses. And whoever wins this week will have to be creative in navigating the ever-changing course conditions and wind.
Garrett Johnston is a golf journalist who’s covered over 30 major championships. He hosts the Beyond the Clubhouse Podcast.