Tony Finau returns to Utah after consecutive victories, reaffirms commitment, loyalty to PGA Tour
Utahn said no amount of money can replace the ‘satisfaction’ and ‘fulfillment’ that come from winning on ‘the best tour in the world’
FARMINGTON — The hottest golfer on the planet the last few weeks doesn’t plan to leave the PGA Tour anytime soon.
Appearing at his annual Tony Finau Foundation pro-am golf event at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington on Monday, less than 24 hours after winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Detroit, Finau said he remains loyal to the PGA Tour even as some of the other top golfers in the world have been lured away by the riches of the competing LIV Golf tour.
Finau won the 3M Open on July 24, his third PGA Tour victory, in Blaine, Minnesota, and followed that up with a tournament-record score of 26 under to win in Michigan by five shots.
“To me, at this point in my career, it is so much (more) about the satisfaction of winning golf tournaments and winning against the best players in the world — on what I feel like is the best tour in the world. And the satisfaction that comes from that, no amount of money can buy.” — Utah’s Tony Finau after consecutive PGA Tour wins.
Asked if becoming the first back-to-back winner since Brendon Todd in 2019 reaffirms his loyalty to the PGA Tour, the 32-year-old father of five nodded affirmatively.
“Yeah, I think that is an accurate statement. To me, at this point in my career, it is so much (more) about the satisfaction of winning golf tournaments and winning against the best players in the world — on what I feel like is the best tour in the world,” he said. “And the satisfaction that comes from that, no amount of money can buy.”
Finau earned $1.35 million for winning in Minnesota and $1.55 million for winning in Michigan; he will stay in Utah at his summer home in Lehi this week, bypassing the regular-season-ending event in Greensboro, North Carolina, as he usually does the week before the FedExCup playoffs begin.
Winning three tournaments the last 11 months “is just a fulfillment that I think I am after, after all these years of working hard,” he said. “And now being at (the) best that I have ever been, to have the opportunity to reach some of the rewards, from just the fulfillment of playing and winning, there is really no amount (of money) that I think can sum up how that feels.”
Sunday’s win vaults Finau from 17th to seventh on the FedExCup points list; the playoffs begin Aug. 11 with the FedEx St. Jude Championship in Memphis. Although he is playing incredibly well right now — he hit 66 of 72 greens in regulation at Detroit Golf Club — Finau said he never considered getting into the field this week and making a run at three-straight wins.
“Even on the heater that I am on, I am happy to rest, to be with my family for this week. But I am excited for next week and the playoffs. I am very much looking forward to being in those fields and competing for a FedEx Cup,” he said after putting on a clinic on the Oakridge driving range with swing coach Boyd Summerhays, a few of the BYU golf products who are in the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship beginning Thursday at Oakridge, and even his 10-year-old son Jraice, who hit some 265-yard drives and boldly predicted by the time he is 13 he will be knocking his tee shots past his father’s.
Summerhays clicked off some of Finau’s accomplishments the last two weeks and called him one of the best iron players in the world and perhaps the best driver-iron combination player in the world. To that combination Finau added a deft short game and excellent putting to win both tournaments going away.
“I call Tony ‘Champ,’ because he is a closer,” said Summerhays, a Davis High product who played collegiately at Oklahoma State before a brief, injury-shortened career on the PGA Tour. “He has had some really heartbreaking losses, but that (closing ability) is something he never lost belief in. He has won his whole life, at every level. And we are seeing that he is a threat to be a problem for a long time, and a champ and a closer. We are proud of you.”
Summerhays said when Finau made a birdie putt on No. 9 on Sunday, “the way he was hitting it, I knew it was over.”
Finau said he was “very aware” that 2021 FedExCup champion Patrick Cantlay was making a run, but looked forward to the challenge.
“I am a leaderboard watcher. There is no question. Where the leaderboards are, my eyes are there, especially when I am on the leaderboard,” Finau told local reporters Monday after the clinic. “I want to know what is going on. It doesn’t affect me in a negative or positive way, I feel like. I just want to know what is happening.”
In contention, but not atop the leaderboard, entering the final round of both tournaments he eventually won, Finau said he slept well the night before because he “welcomes” the anticipation and the butterflies that come with that position.
“I don’t think you need to brush those feelings away whenever you are in those types of situations, in contention,” he said. “I have learned over the years to just deal with it and to me, that’s how you become a true champion, you gotta learn how to deal with those emotions.”
Finau said he felt “crummy” due to “a bad fever” when he entered The Open Championship at St. Andrews in Scotland on July 14, and after making sure he didn’t have COVID, he barely made the cut. But he began feeling better as the tournament wore on and shot a 6-under-par 66 in the final round to tie for 28th place.
“I worked on my putting really hard leading up to the 3M, and I enjoyed a lot of success over these last three weeks,” he said. “I have never hit it better. … My game has never been better. That’s how I felt before The Open Championship. And it was nice to see the results of that.”
Finau acknowledged that he’s in the proverbial “zone” that great athletes talk about when they are going good, and described it as having the feeling that he’s never going to hit a bad shot.
“I didn’t think I was always going to hit a great shot, I just never thought I was going to hit it in the water. I didn’t see anything but where I was hitting it. I think that’s the best way I can explain it,” he said. “That’s the type of zone I was in. … And that’s a nice way to play this game.”
Speaking during the clinic, Finau got choked up a bit when talking about his late mother, Ravena “Vena” Finau, who tragically died in a car accident in 2011 while returning home from a wedding in Nevada. He also paid tribute to his father, Gary, and to the late father of his wife, Alayna.
“My parents would drive me up and down this whole state as a kid, and we didn’t know anything about golf. I didn’t know how to play golf. I didn’t know how to dress. But they have been there since the beginning. I can’t help but think over these last couple of weeks how special they have been,” Finau said.
Loved this tonight from Tony Finau:— Ryan Lavner (@RyanLavnerGC) August 1, 2022
“They say a winner is just a loser that kept on trying, and that's me to a tee. How many times do I lose? But one thing I won't do is give up, and I'm only here as a winner because I chose not to give up and just kept going.” pic.twitter.com/CwIruCkY2V
“I know she is proud of what I have done. I had a pretty amazing mom. I feel like I just have to show the world not only what a great player I am, but the person I was raised to be. … I owe so much of that to my mom.”
Back-to-back wins moved Finau to No. 6 on the points list for the U.S. Team in the Presidents Cup. The top six automatically qualify for the team. Captain Davis Love will pick the next six.
“I write down goals every season, and this season I wanted to make the Presidents Cup by points. Right now, if it finished today, I would be in by points,” Finau said. “I got two more weeks to prove that to be true. I am looking forward to that challenge.”
The West High graduate disagreed with the suggestion that the wins represent a “breakthrough” moment in his career.
“I don’t know if breakthrough is the proper word. I think there is some relief in there. I think there is definitely just some strength drawn from it, and some confidence,” he said. “I have just been very patient with myself to allow myself to grow into what I feel like I can become, and my potential. It is cool to see some of the results.”