Utahn Tony Finau loses in a PGA Tour playoff for the third straight time

Salt Lake City native comes up short against Max Homma in Genesis Invitational

(Ryan Kang | AP) Tony Finau tees off on the seventh hole during the final round of the Genesis Invitational golf tournament at Riviera Country Club, Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, in the Pacific Palisades area of Los Angeles.

Salt Lake City native Tony Finau’s final-round 64 topped the field’s Sunday performance by two strokes, and then he watched Max Homa miss a 3½-foot putt on the 18th hole.

That convergence seemed like a sign that Finau would win his long-awaited second PGA Tour title in the Genesis Invitational’s playoff at Riviera Country Club near Los Angeles. Yet not even Homa’s brush with a tree trunk to begin the playoff could turn the outcome in Finau’s favor, as Homa ultimately won via a par on the second extra hole.

“Right now, I’m disappointed,” Finau said on the CBS Sports telecast, trying to process his third playoff defeat among 21 top-five finishes since his win in the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.

The biggest check of Finau’s career — slightly exceeding $1 million, and topped only by his reward for a playoff loss in a 2018 World Golf Championship event in China — came as only mild consolation during his frustrating quest for another victory. Counting some ties, he now has eight runner-up showings in his tour career.

Finau’s phenomenon of repeatedly coming close has become one of the PGA Tour’s biggest stories lately. His last four starts, including a European Tour appearance in Saudi Arabia, all have produced top-four placements, including three straight second places. The West High School graduate moved to No. 6 in the FedEx Cup standings for the tour’s extended 2020-21 season.

Trophies keep eluding him, though. Sunday’s near-miss came almost 30 years to the day after St. George’s Jay Don Blake became the most recent homegrown Utahn to win a full-value PGA Tour prize (Finau’s victory in Puerto Rico coincided with a World Golf Championship event). Finau also hoped to join three members of the Utah Golf Hall of Fame as winners at Riviera: Billy Casper, Mike Weir and Johnny Miller.

He almost made it happen with a closing 64 that he labeled “pretty special” after he started the round four strokes behind Sam Burns. Finau birdied the par-3 No. 16 to tie Homa and Burns, then birdied the par-5 No. 17 to move ahead. Playing one group behind Finau, Homa also birdied No. 17. He then could have secured his first win with a birdie on No. 18, but missed the short putt.

Finau seemingly had a big advantage on the first playoff hole, the par-4 No. 10, where Homa’s tee shot nearly left him blocked by the tree trunk to the left of the green. Homa managed to make a par, though, and then Finau missed an 8-foot birdie try for the win.

They moved to the par-3 No. 14, where Finau’s tee shot sailed left, into a greenside bunker. “I didn’t execute the shot I wanted to hit on the last hole,” Finau said, “and it bit me in the butt. But I shot 64 on a day when I needed to, to get in a playoff.”

Homa completed his routine par and Finau missed his 10-foot par attempt.

Finau topped Steve Marino in a playoff in the Puerto Rico Open. His previous playoff losses came against Xander Schauffele in the 2018 WGC event and Webb Simpson in the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Finau’s upcoming schedule features a WGC tournament in Florida this week and The Players Championship in mid-March, followed by the Masters in April. “My game’s in a great place, going into some big events,” he said.

Yet a victory would have been even a better sign for him, considering that Casper (1970) and Weir (2003) each won at Riviera a couple of months before their Masters wins.