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Utah’s Tony Finau will chase that elusive Major title — or at least another Top 10 finish — at the PGA Championship

Fellow Utahn Joe Summerhays will join him this weekend at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina

(Gerald Herbert | AP) Tony Finau hits off the second tee during the third round of the PGA Zurich Classic golf tournament at TPC Louisiana in Avondale, La., Saturday, April 24, 2021.

In standard PGA Tour events, Tony Finau’s failure to win a title in the last five years is viewed as a series of missed opportunities. In major championships, his consistent top-10 finishes are considered signs of an impending breakthrough.

Context means everything in professional golf, and the West High School graduate has thrived in the annual “four weeks that matter,” as he quoted Tiger Woods in describing the majors. Finau will play in his 20th career major as the PGA Championship unfolds Thursday at Kiawah Island Golf Resort in South Carolina, trying to add to his run of eight top-10 placements in the last 12 majors.

Finau will be joined in the field by longtime Utah teaching pro Joe Summerhays, who qualified for his second appearance in six years via a top-20 finish in the PGA Professional Championship in Florida.

Finau’s success in recent majors includes his tie for fourth in the PGA Championship last August in San Francisco, where he briefly was part of a six-way tie for the lead during the back nine of the final round. In April, he tied for 10th in the Masters, although a second-round 66 was his only under-par score of the week.

Since then, he has made only two starts. Finau and partner Cameron Champ faded to a tie for 17th after contending for three rounds of the Zurich Classic in New Orleans, and then he missed the 36-hole cut in the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.

Yet he’s convinced that his game will respond to another big-time test. In any major, “There’s only a certain amount of guys that actually believe they can win — like, deep down,” Finau said in a pre-tournament news conference. “I think I’m one of those guys. I believe that I can win a major championship, with my track record, with my type of game that holds up well on big golf courses and under high-pressure situations.”

Finau enters the PGA Championship as the No. 14 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and is No. 18 in the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup standings for the 2020-21 season. He’s No. 8 in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings; the top six players as of late August will automatically qualify for the September event in Wisconsin, joining six captain’s picks.

(Randy Dodson | Fairways Media) Utah's Joe Summerhays qualified for the PGA Championship in South Carolina, where he will join fellow Utahn Tony Finau.

Summerhays will turn 50 this year, making him eligible to follow the unlikely path of his father, Bruce, a club pro who became a PGA Champions Tour star. His immediate goal is to make the cut this week, 40 years after his father played the weekend rounds in the PGA Championship as the head pro at Wasatch Mountain Golf Course in Midway. None of the 20 club pros in the field made the cut last year.

Joe Summerhays shot 76-73 to miss the cut in the 2016 PGA at Baltusrol GC in New Jersey, where his cousin Daniel Summerhays finished third (Finau, in a rare case in a major, also missed the cut that year). Summerhays will account for the 10th appearance in eight years by a Utah Section PGA member, along with Zach Johnson (twice), Craig Hocknull (twice), Dustin Volk, Steve Schneiter, Tommy Sharp and Chris Moody. Summerhays lives in Syracuse and is affiliated with Eagle Lake GC in Roy.

“One of the things I’ve learned over the years is to enjoy the good times in your golf career, because there are a lot of down times as well,” Summerhays said in a Utah Section PGA interview. “I hope to enjoy the experience this time around – be comfortable, confident, and treat this tournament as an opportunity that doesn’t come around often.”

UTAHNS’ PGA TEE TIMES (MDT)

Joe Summerhays: 10:36 a.m. Thursday/5:11 a.m. Friday, with Sami Valimaki and Richy Werenski.

Tony Finau: 11:03 a.m. Thursday/5:38 a.m. Friday, with Corey Conners and Matthew Fitzpatrick.

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