As the runner-up in the previous PGA Tour event and the co-author of a Golf Digest cover story about his “slice-proof swing,” Tony Finau sent his first drive of the next tournament 70 yards to the right of his target.
Finau's account may be slightly exaggerated, but his recounting of a rough round in The Memorial of was a good-natured illustration of the nature of golf. The Lehi resident regrouped during a week at home and will be eager to play in the U.S. Open, beginning Thursday at Pebble Beach Golf Links in California.
Finau will be joined in the field by two Utahns who advanced through sectional qualifying, 49-year-old Mike Weir of Sandy and Web.com Tour member Zac Blair of Orem.
In a second consecutive season of eligibility for all four major tournaments, Finau is looking for more consistency. His poor showing in The Memorial in Ohio, after he contended the Charles Schwab Challenge title in Texas, extended his pattern of this calendar year. In the majors, Finau tied for fifth in the Masters but posted a final-round 79 to tie for 64th in the PGA Championship.
“As I go through this season, it just tells me how good a year I had last year,” Finau said. “And I think there's a lot of great things I've done this year. … It's hard to believe, but I'm enjoying the journey of trying to be the best player in the world. There's some things I've seen in my game this year that I'm made a lot of big strides in.”
Asked to explain finishing second and then shooting a 77 five days later, Finau smiled and replied, “A four-letter word: golf. … You just shake your head and shrug your shoulders. You're just going to have some weeks like that.”
Finau is in the top 20 in both the Official World Golf Ranking and the PGA Tour's FedEx Cup standings for the 2018-19 season. He has made the 36-hole cut in each of the last eight majors.
Weir plays annually in the Masters as the 2003 champion. Otherwise, this will be his first start in a major since he tied for 28th in the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion in Pennsylvania. Weir is playing in selected Web.com Tour events this year, in preparation for PGA Tour Champions eligibility when he turns 50 next May. He shot 70-69 in the PGA Tour’s Canadian Open in his native Ontario, missing the cut by one stroke last week.
Blair is back in the U.S. Open field after qualifying in 2014 and tying for 40th at Pinehurst in North Carolina. In the five years since then, Blair became an established PGA Tour member and then lost his status after the 2017-18 season. He's trying to work his way back to that level via the Web.com Tour and is giving himself a decent shot, hovering around 50th in the standings. The season's top 25 players will go directly to the PGA Tour; the Nos. 26-75 finishers will can advance through the Web.com Tour Finals.
In that context, anything Blair does in the U.S. Open will be a bonus. His 2014 showing at Pinehurst boosted his confidence, and then he took advantage of limited Web.com Tour status to play his way to a PGA Tour card.
UTAHNS’ TEE TIMES
Thursday's starting times (MDT) for Utah residents in the U.S. Open:
Mike Weir – 8:29 a.m., with Brendon Todd and Luke Donald.
Tony Finau – 2:58 p.m., with Jimmy Walker and Ian Poulter.
Zac Blair – 3:31 p.m., with a-Daniel Hillier and Alex Prugh.