Five years removed from his lone win on the PGA Tour, Tony Finau snaps his long winless drought at the Northern Trust
Tony Finau no longer has to answer the same tired, old questions.
He no longer has to answer why such an uber-talented player has only one PGA Tour title to his credit. He no longer has to explain why he’s come up short in big moments so many times before. He doesn’t have to describe what it feels like to be beaten yet again.
Finau answered all those questions on Monday afternoon at Liberty National. In the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, Finau prevailed in a sudden-death playoff over Cameron Smith to win the Northern Trust and earn his second PGA Tour victory, more than five years and nearly 1,800 days after his first one.
There have been several lengthy winless droughts snapped on tour this season: Stewart Cink and Lucas Glover both won for the first time in more than a decade. But this one feels different, because the man is so different. Finau is freakishly athletic. He bombs his drives and has an excellent iron game; he’s been in the top-25 in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green every year since 2017 and hasn’t finished worse than 35th in Total Strokes Gained.
He has a calm, personable demeanor that has sometimes been derided as too nice to be an effective champion. He’s a family man, the seventh of nine children and with five kids of his own. But, whatever attributes Finau possesses, it never seemed to be enough. He was the one congratulating the winner.
Tony Finau proves he doesn’t have to always settle for second-best
That changed on Monday, thanks to a back-nine stretch that should remove all doubt whether he can finish off a golf tournament. On the par-five 13th hole, Finau hit his approach from 219 yards to within three feet for an easy eagle. He holed a 30-footer for birdie on the par-three 14th and played his final seven holes in five-under, finishing at 20-under and surpassing World No. 1 Jon Rahm on the leaderboard. His six-under 65 in the final round was the lowest score of the day.
The playoff against Smith proved short and anti-climatic. Smith hit his tee shot well right and out of bounds. Finau simply had to find the green and two-putt for an easy par to earn his first win since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.
“Yeah, it was definitely worth the wait, no question. And I think it’s still going to sink it as the next week unravels,” he told Golf Channel following his playoff win.
“I know how much was on the line this week, and that’s the coolest thing was I was able to perform under immense pressure. I knew my game was good, but that’s only a starting point. You have to actually get the job done…I was able to do that.”
Coming into this week, Finau had 39 top-10 finishes since 2017. That’s more than Bryson DeChambeau (who’s won eight times in that span), one less than Rory McIlroy (six wins), and two less than Dustin Johnson (12 wins). He had finished in the top five 20 times and second seven times. He had lost three playoffs, including to Max Homa at the Genesis Invitational in February.
Finau was the best player on tour with only one win. Now he has two, and the rest of the tour is suddenly looking up at him atop the FedEx Cup leaderboard.