PGA Championship: Can Utah’s Tony Finau contend at Southern Hills?

Utah’s Tony Finau almost always plays well in major golf championships, especially the PGA Championship. He tied for eighth last year at Kiawah Island in South Carolina, and tied for fourth in 2020 at Harding Park in San Francisco.

Finau has made the cut in six of his last seven appearances in the PGA Championship, now the second major of the golf season.

But despite being No. 19 in the Official World Golf Rankings, Finau is on few favorites’ lists for the PGA Championship this week at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma, thanks to his overall struggles in the 2021-22 season.

“I am happy with the progress that I have made. I haven’t had the full season that I wanted as far as consistency, but I am playing well at the right time. ” – Tony Finau

Finau, 31, who grew up in Salt Lake City’s Rose Park neighborhood, graduated from SLC’s West High and owns homes in Lehi and Scottsdale, Arizona, tees off early Thursday morning (6:38 am MDT) in one of the PGA Championship’s notable groups .

He will play the first two days with 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele, No. 10 in the OWGR, teeing off Friday at 12:03 pm MDT. Coincidentally, Finau defeated Schauffele, his US Ryder Cup teammate last fall, in the Dell Match Play Championship in Texas, making eight birdies in the match.

Other featured groupings in the first two rounds: Jordan Spieth, Rory McIlroy and Tiger Woods; Shane Lowry, Brooks Kopeka and Adam Scott; Dustin Johnson, Patrick Cantlay and Justin Thomas.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, 51, withdrew from the 104th playing of the event last week. The popular golfer hasn’t played in a PGA Tour event since January’s Farmers Insurance Open, due to the controversy that arose when his connection di lui to LIV Golf, the Saudi-backed golf league, was publicized.

Meanwhile, Finau hunts for his first major as he rolls into his 30s.

After he opened with a 69 on May 5 at the Wells Fargo Championship – he eventually finished tied for 41st – Finau hoped his midseason struggles were behind him and said he was looking forward to the PGA.

“Yeah, no question, my game is rounding into shape,” he said. “With three majors left, I feel good about it.”

Finau skipped the AT&T Bryon Nelson tournament last week, which was won by KH Lee. Before the Nelson in the Dallas area, Finau served notice that he was starting to roll when he fired a closing-round 63 to tie for second behind Jon Rahm at the Mexico Open at Vidanta.

“Last week was a big week for me,” he said at the Wells Fargo. “I felt like I had a chance to win. With a few holes to go, that’s what you look for. I played really nicely throughout the week. “

On the other hand, Finau shot 74-73 on the weekend in Maryland two weeks ago, slowing his momentum a bit.

“I am happy with the progress that I have made,” he said. “I haven’t had the full season that I wanted as far as consistency, but I am playing well at the right time.”

Finau’s disappointing season, by his standards, is puzzling because he had seemingly broken through with that curse-breaking win in the Northern Trust last August in the FedEx Cup playoffs.

Prior to the Masters, Finau had missed the 36-hole cut in four of his 11 tournaments. He tied for 35th at the Masters, closing with rounds of 75-74-74 after an encouraging start.

“I made some adjustments before Augusta, and I am seeing the fruits of it now, a few weeks later,” Finau said after the closing 63 in Mexico.

He declined to go into the “mechanics” of the adjustment, divulging that it was just a “setup adjustment” he ironed out with his swing coach, Boyd Summerhays, the former Davis County resident and PGA Tour player.

“I haven’t had a great season, and sometimes that is just how it goes. That’s the game that we play, ”he said.

Finau is 79th in the FedEx Cup standings, so he needs a good summer to make up for the points he lost the first three months of 2022, when he missed the cuts in San Diego, Phoenix and at The Players Championship in Florida.

“We don’t stray too far from the fundamentals, just checking grip, and ball placement mostly,” Finau said of his work with Summerhays. “We don’t get too crazy with mechanics and things.”

Actually, Finau’s ball-striking hasn’t been bad. His short game of him is another story.

Finau is 192nd on the tour in putting, and 129th in sand saves.

Stellar short games are a must at Southern Hills, experts say, due to its difficult-to-hit greens

According to CBSsports.com, Scottie Scheffler and Rahm are the favorites, going off at 11-to-1 odds. McIlroy and Thomas are 14-to-1, followed by Colin Morikawa (16-to-1), Dustin Johnson (18-to-1) and Spieth, Camerson Smith and Cantlay, all at 20-to-1.

Finau is 50-to-1, but he’s in good company. So is Woods, a 15-time majors champion.

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Tony Finau tees off on the 14th hole during the second round of the Mexico Open at Vidanta in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Friday, April 29, 2022. The Utah native will tee off early Thursday at the PGA Championship, along with Hideki Matsuyama and Xander Schauffele.

Eduardo Verdugo, Associated Press

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