Utah’s Tony Finau enjoys an emotional victory — his second PGA Tour win in a row

A week after winning the 3M Open, the Salt Lake City native sets a tournament record in Detroit by finishing at 26 under, winning by five strokes.

Tony Finau holds the winner's trophy after the final round of the Rocket Mortgage Classic golf tournament, Sunday, July 31, 2022, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Tony Finau started the hottest month in Utah weather history by watching his son play in a junior tournament in Murray and will begin August in Farmington, by staging his foundation’s pro-am tournament.

In between, the West High School graduate smoked his PGA Tour competitors with the best two-week performance for any professional golfer connected to the state. After going 5 years and 5 months between his first and second tour titles, Finau needed only a brief stay in the Upper Midwest to claim two more trophies and combined earnings of nearly $3 million.

That’s what shooting 43 under par for 144 holes will do for you, as Finau followed his victory in the 3M Open in Minnesota with a win Sunday in the Rocket Mortgage Classic in Michigan. He shot 64-66-65-67 for a 26-under-par total at Detroit Golf Club and a five-stroke win over Patrick Cantlay, Cameron Young and Taylor Pendrith.

That’s good stuff, from a golfer who once was known as a poor closer.

“I’m proud of the way I’ve fought through adversity through my career, and now I’m a back-to-back champion,” Finau said in a news conference. “That’s what happens. They say a winner is just a loser that’s kept on trying, and that’s me to a ‘T.’ … I’m only here as a winner because I chose not to give up and just keep going.”

Amid whatever disclaimers may exist, such as fields weakened by LIV Tour defectors or a lull between the major tournament season and the FedExCup Playoffs, Finau’s ball-striking provided an emphatic argument for the merits of his July achievements. In Detroit, he hit 66 of 72 greens in regulation (91.6%), tying the PGA Tour’s third-best rate since the statistic started being tracked in 1980. Finau made that accuracy with his irons possible by hitting 46 of 56 fairways (82.1%) on a tight, three-lined course.

Finau reached seven (of 16) par-5 holes in two shots for the week. So while hitting every green in regulation for 72 holes on a par-72 course theoretically would require 144 shots, he needed 143 swings to get on the greens in Detroit.

“Wins are so special out here, because they’re so rare,” Finau said. “The PGA Tour is where the best players in the world are. It doesn’t matter what tournament, you have to play well, you have to earn the victory. To have earned these last two [wins] is very satisfying.”

His four-day score also was eight strokes better than last year’s winning total and broke the tournament record of 25 under, set in 2019 by Nate Lashley, a two-time winner of the Siegfried & Jensen Utah Open. Starting with the Sunday conclusion of The Open Championship at St. Andrews, Finau has shot higher than 67 only once in his last nine rounds – and that was a 68.

Finau, a Salt Lake City native whose family of five children now spends the summer in Lehi and the school year in Arizona, played the tournament’s first 64 holes without making a bogey. He three-putted from 70 feet on the par-3 No. 11, before making a 30-foot birdie putt on the par-4 No. 12. That response pretty much closed out his first win as a 54-hole leader, after being tied with Pendrith and having gone 0-for-5 in that position.

Even though he won by three strokes with a big comeback in Minnesota, Finau was disappointed with a wobbly finish. Sunday was another story. “All I wanted to do this week was show that I’m a winner and a champion,” he said on the CBS telecast, “and I think I did that today.”

So a golfer who stood 150th in FedEx Cup points as of late February is now seventh, with a shot at an $18 million bonus for winning the season competition. Finau will spend this week in Utah, with his foundation pro-am tied into the Korn Ferry Tour’s Utah Championship at Oakridge Country Club, then will compete in the three-event Playoffs, starting Aug. 11 in Memphis. He has automatically qualified to play for the U.S. team in the Presidents Cup in North Carolina in September.

Finau writes an annual list of goals, and “one of my goals was to be a multiple winner on tour this season,” he said. “To be able to accomplish that is amazing, Another goal was to win the FedEx Cup, and I put myself in position to do that.”

As a Draper resident, Mike Weir won two PGA Tour titles in three starts, with a tie for third place in between, over a four-week stretch in California in February 2003. That run is the only real challenger to Finau’s July performance among Utah pro golfers. On the amateur side, Preston Summerhays, whose father, Boyd, is Finau’s coach, won the State Am in Midway and the U.S. Junior Am in Ohio in consecutive weeks in July 2019 by going 12-0 in match play.