The image of Tony Finau’s golf ball hitting the bank in front of Augusta National Golf Club’s No. 12 green and slowly rolling into the water is enduring, a month later. The next major golf tournament on the calendar has arrived quickly for the Salt Lake City native.
Finau’s outlook is healthy enough that he likely won’t be scarred by his missed opportunity in the Masters. Finau, joined in the field by part-time Utah resident Craig Hocknull, will tee off Thursday in the PGA Championship at Bethpage State Park in New York.
ESPN’s panel of analysts made defending champion Brooks Koepka the consensus favorite this week. Three of them picked Finau, for many of the same reasons as others like Koepka. He’s a long hitter and is capable of making a lot of birdies on Bethpage Black, a difficult course.
The PGA Championship has moved from August to May on the PGA Tour’s new calendar, jumping ahead of the U.S. Open in the order of major tournaments. In the context of the majors, Finau is coming off a tie for fifth place in the Masters – his fourth top-10 finish in the last five majors, as he played in the final threesome with champion Tiger Woods.
“For me, it was fun being part of the action,” Finau said that day at Augusta National. “And it's a lot of fun to be in that type of atmosphere. It's what I practice for, what I play for, what I train for. My time is coming. I know it is. And I've just got to keep riding the storm.”
Woods even said this week that Finau's costly double bogey in the Masters was excusable.
“Tony hit a great shot,” Woods said during a news conference at the PGA venue. “Tony hit it right on his number, right on — hit the perfect shape, but you could see the wind just hold it up right at its peak, and you could see it get slammed, and that’s just enough for it to end up in the water. But he hit a good shot.”
FINAU IN THE MAJORS
Tony Finau’s results in major golf tournament in 2018 and ’19:
Masters: T10, T5.
U.S. Open: 5th.
British Open: T9.
TONY’S TEE TIMES
Lehi resident Tony Finau will play the first two rounds of the PGA Championship with Billy Horschel and Ian Poulter, teeing off Thursday at 10:43 a.m. MDT and Friday at 5:18 a.m. MDT.
Finau has not played well since the Masters, though. In a team event in New Orleans, Finau and partner Kyle Stanley missed the 36-hole cut. Finau then tied for 60th in the Wells Fargo Championship in North Carolina before taking last week off.
Finau ordinarily likes to play in a tournament the week before a major, but this year's compressed schedule caused him to change his approach. So nobody can be sure what to expect from him this week, although multiple ESPN-affiliated observers like the way Finau has played in majors and expect him to contend.
Mark Barrie: “Bethpage Black is long. And it's wet. This week will truly be about the bombers, and Finau fits the mold. … Finau has proven it's only a matter of time.”
Michael Collins: “Most important, Finau has a great attitude, which is a key factor on a course this brutally hard.”
Chris Fallica: “One other factor here is that the very likable Finau is someone the New York crowd will get behind, should he be in the mix on Sunday.”
It would make a good story if Finau contends at Bethpage State Park, a classic public golf facility. He grew up in the Rose Park neighborhood, playing the Jordan River Par-3, then operated by Utah State Parks & Recreation. And he won the 2006 Utah State Amateur at Soldier Hollow Golf Course, part of the Wasatch State Park property in Midway.