“It keeps me hungry:” Tony Finau pushes to end five-year winless drought
Already one of the TOUR’s most respected players, World No. 13 ready to add more titles to his resumé
By Mike McAllister, PGA TOUR
Tony Finau and Cameron Champ were sitting side-by-side earlier this PGA TOUR season, discussing their partnership at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans. Each known for his power game, the question was naturally asked: Which player is longer?
Champ immediately pointed to his partner, to which Finau responded: “He’s pointing to the wrong guy.”
But as Champ explained, “Tony takes it all the way back. As people notice, he takes it back a little bit shorter than normal, but when he takes it back full, he is the longest on TOUR.”
Even Finau didn’t really argue the matter from that perspective.
“I might have maybe a little bit more on the take,” he said. “I still don’t know. He can get it up in the 200s as well, but he probably has a better idea where it’s going at that speed.
“I have a lot of speed but not quite sure where it’s going.”
With that last sentence, Finau may have inadvertently summed up his career to date on the PGA TOUR.
He has one victory, but that was five years ago at the alternate-field event at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. It was supposed to be the start of big things from a player who has all the physical tools (as well as one of the most likeable dispositions on TOUR).
Since then, Finau certainly has become a consistent presence on the first page of the leaderboard. He has 39 top-10 finishes since 2017, including his latest, a T8, at the PGA Championship in May. But he’s yet to return to the winner’s circle. In PGA TOUR history, only Jeff Maggert in the mid-1990s had as many more top-10 finishes (39) in a five-year stretch without producing a victory.
Finau has eight runner-up finishes and three playoff losses. The most recent is The Genesis Invitational this year at Riviera, where he shot a final-round 64 (tying his lowest Round 4 score) to force a playoff but lost to Max Homa.
While disappointed, the always-upbeat Finau also looked at the big picture that Sunday in Los Angeles.
“I haven’t been the guy that went low and today I was, so I can take a lot of confidence from that,” he said. “That’s something that I wanted to happen today to just prove to myself on Sundays that I can put myself in the thick of it and shoot a number and I was able to do that this week. So I think at the end of the day, I’m going to be able to look back on that and have a lot of positives to take from it.”
He’s said that many times through the last five years, always remaining upbeat about his chances, his game, his attitude. It’s part of what makes him so popular – and makes him a perfect fit on U.S. national teams, as he’s represented his country at the 2018 Ryder Cup and 2019 Presidents Cup and will certainly be considered for one of the spots in the next Presidents Cup.
And yet that inability to add to his win total has left golf observers not sure where his career is going. Is he too easy-going? Does he lack the killer instinct needed to beat the world’s top golfers when the pressure is on? What’s happening with Finau at crunch time?
“Sundays haven’t gone my way,” he explained recently, “and I think it doesn’t have a lot to do with my play. Some breaks here and there.”
Finau is adamant, though, that he will not change his nature in hopes of changing his winning fortunes. He will remain confident in his game and his approach.
“A lot of it is just who I am,” he explained. “I think I just compete differently than most guys just in the way that I present myself, this is how I am, who I am, and I’m not someone that’s going to freak out when something bad happens and I’m probably not one that’s going to get too crazy when something great happens.
“It seems to be that’s just who I am, that’s how I compete. I know how I feel like I compete at my best, and I try to do that every time I play. I try to be as much of me as I can, really. I’m not going to change who I am to get different results. Maybe I should, but I think good things are on the horizon. I just have to think that way because that’s how I am.”
That doesn’t mean the lack of success can’t be ignored.
“No question,” Finau said. “It keeps me hungry, it keeps me humble, and I definitely know that I definitely need a big win for me … I’ve had a good career up to this point. I’ve had a lot of close calls, and I do think I’ve had a really successful career, but not quite a winning career, and I think that comes from winning a big one.
“For me, I think that will give me a lot of confidence. I feel like I carry a lot of confidence in these big events because I have competed at a high level in a lot of them. But I think missing that W keeps me humble and hungry.”
It is rarely a surprise when Finau is in the hunt on the weekend. But at age 31 and looking to match his success to his talents, Finau is now looking for more than just another top 10. He knows it’s time to figure out where he’s finally going.