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Utah’s Tony Finau figures he’ll have ‘a huge advantage’ in an April Masters

He’s counting on more normal, spring-like conditions with the tournament shifted back to its traditional April slot

(Doug Mills | The New York Times) Tony Finau is seen on the practice range through a Masters Tournament logo that is cut into a bench, during a Masters practice round at Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga., Tuesday, April, 6, 2021.

Tony Finau might have won one or more PGA Tour titles in February, just by playing slightly better on Saturdays and Sundays. As he tees off in this week’s Masters at Augusta National Golf Club, the Salt Lake City native needs to improve on Thursdays and Fridays.

Known for his consistently high finishes, even while not having won a tournament in five years, Finau is in a rare slump this spring. He has missed the 36-hole cut in each of his last two stroke-play events, the Players Championship and the Texas Open.

Even so, “The game feels good,” Finau said this week on his monthly podcast with his coach, Farmington native Boyd Summerhays.

UTAHNS’ TEE TIMES (MDT)

Mike Weir: 9:42 a.m. Thursday/6:36 a.m. Friday, with C.T. Pan and Robert MacIntyre.

Tony Finau: 11:48 a.m. Thursday/8:42 a.m. Friday, with Louis Oosthuizen and Justin Thomas.

Finau added, “For some reason, Augusta National, I think, brings out the best in me – and major championships, just getting those juices flowing and competing at a high level is something that never gets old.”

That’s also true for Sandy resident Mike Weir, making his 22nd appearance in the Masters as the 2003 champion. The former BYU golfer is rejuvenated at age 50 as a PGA Tour Champions player, having made the cut at Augusta National last November for only the second time in 10 years.

The 2020 Masters was pushed back seven months, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The course’s softer greens in November penalized Finau, he believes, and he’s eager to play a more traditional setup.

Because he’s a long driver and hits iron shots high, the West High School graduate expects to have “a huge advantage when the golf course plays firm,” he said.

Finau finished in the top 10 in each of his two April trips to Augusta National, before falling to a tie for 38th place in November. He’s allowed to have confidence about a turnaround this week, considering he contended for the 2019 Masters title after finishing only 61st in the Texas Open the previous week.

Last week in San Antonio, Finau missed some short birdie putts and failed to take advantage of the par-5 holes in the second round, missing the cut by one stroke. Summerhays figures Finau will play much better on Augusta National’s par-5s and labeled him “an elite lag putter,” able to avoid the three-putting problems that affect many Masters contestants.

As a person of color, Finau applauded Masters organizers for choosing Black golfer Lee Elder to be an honorary starter Thursday, alongside Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player. He described the move as “pretty amazing … a step in the right direction.”

Finau is No. 13 in the Official World Golf Ranking and No. 10 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings for the 2020-21 season. He was boosted by a remarkable run in January and February when he finished in the top four in three straight PGA Tour starts, including a playoff loss in the Genesis Invitational near Los Angeles.

Mike Weir watches his tee shot on the second hole during the first round of the U.S. Open Championship golf tournament, Thursday, June 13, 2019, in Pebble Beach, Calif. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Weir also missed a chance for a PGA Tour Champions victory, losing a two-stroke lead with three holes to play in late February in Tucson, Ariz. The tour scheduled a long break after that. So Weir won’t have the same competitive flow that helped him in November, when he outplayed Finau by one stroke through three rounds of the Masters, before closing with a 76 that gave him a tie for 51st place.

In this month’s Golf Digest, Weir described his comeback from struggles in his 40s, stemming from injuries. “I’m still not where I think I can get to. I still see room for improvement,” he said. “The important thing is, I jump out of bed every morning ready to go to work, wanting to get out and play. For a long time, that wasn’t the case. I had to drag myself to the range or the golf course. Now, every day is fun.”

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