Tony Finau persevered through difficult conditions Sunday, moving up to third place in the British Open and matching the best finish in a major golf tournament for a Utah high school graduate in 88 years.
The West High alumnus and current Lehi resident posted an even-par 71 with two birdies and two bogeys in the final round amid the wind and rain at Royal Portrush Golf Club in Northern Ireland. He started the day in a tie for eighth and steadily climbed the leaderboard. Although he never really contended for the title, Finau played four rounds of par or better (68-70-68-71) and matched Davis High product Daniel Summerhays’ third-place finish in the 2016 PGA Championship.
The only homegrown Utahn ever to finish higher in a major was Salt Lake City’s George Von Elm, who lost to Billy Burke in a playoff for the U.S. Open title in 1931 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio (the course where Utah native Preston Summerhays won the U.S. Junior Amateur on Saturday). Ireland’s Shane Lowry won the British Open and England’s Tommy Fleetwood finished second. That makes Finau the first Utahn to emerge as the top American in any major.
Finau has six top-10 finishes in 15 career starts in majors, including five in the past two seasons. He tied for fifth in the Masters in April, before fading in the final round of the PGA Championship to a tie for 64th in May and missing the 36-hole cut in the U.S. Open in June. That ended his streak of playing the weekend rounds in eight straight majors, but he bounced back in a big way in the British Open.
He extended his run of strong performances in that event, with a fourth straight top-30 showing and back-to-back top-10 efforts.
The performance will enhance Finau’s chances of making the U.S. team for the Presidents Cup in Australia in December, either as an automatic qualifier or a captain’s pick. Finau will play this week in a World Golf Championships event in Memphis, Tenn., then the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin Aug. 8. Finau moved up five spots to No. 13 in the PGA Tour’s 2018-19 FedEx Cup standings and should rise from No. 17 in the Official World Golf Ranking, to be updated Monday.