West High School graduate Tony Finau had the look of a winner Sunday afternoon as he played the back nine of the TPC Scottsdale.
Webb Simpson had his own ideas about the outcome, though. Simpson birdied the last two holes of regulation and the first playoff hole to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open and deny Finau a second PGA victory.
Dressed in all-white attire from his cap to his shoes in the final round, Finau missed an 8-foot birdie putt on No. 18, with an opportunity to win in regulation.
Finau recently moved his family from Lehi to Arizona, turning this event into a home game with fans chanting his name Sunday. A win also would have been a breakthrough for homegrown Utahns. Jay Don Blake’s 1991 triumph in the PGA Tour’s San Diego stop remains the most recent win for a Utah high school product in a full-value tournament. Finau won the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, played the same weekend as a World Golf Championships tournament.
Finau also lost in a playoff with Xander Schauffele in a 2018 WGC event, one of his six second-place finishes in the past three seasons. He appeared almost certain to break that trend Sunday, when he briefly lost the lead, then moved ahead of Simpson with birdies on Nos. 12 and 13.
Simpson, Finau’s U.S. teammate in the 2018 Ryder Cup and the 2019 Presidents Cup, fell two shots behind when he bogeyed the par-5 No. 15. Even so, Davis High School alumnus Boyd Summerhays, Finau’s coach, was worried about Finau’s missing an 8-foot birdie try on that hole.
“To me it came down to the putt on 15, because anything can happen coming in,” Summerhays told PGATour.com.
Simpson rallied with two birdies to force the playoff, as Finau’s closing round of 1-under-par 70 was an insufficient follow-up to his 62 on Saturday that gave him a one-stroke edge.
Finau’s takeaway was mostly positive. “I learned that my game is in a great place, early in the season,” he said. “I feel good. I had a chance, a great chance, to win this week. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but my game’s better than it’s ever been. And if you know anything about me, I’ll persevere through anything.”
Having tied for sixth place in San Diego last weekend, the 30-year-old Finau now is No. 21 in the tour’s 2019-20 FedEx Cup standings. He should move up slightly from No. 13 in the Official World Golf Ranking and remain solidly within the top eight for U.S. Ryder Cup qualification.
Finau’s second-place check of $795,700 lifted his career earnings above $18 million in his sixth season as a PGA Tour member.