If winning is a habit, Tony Finau may officially be addicted to it.
Finau, who had posted 39 top-10 finishes, including being a runner-up eight times between his maiden victory at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and validating last August by claiming the Northern Trust, had gone 143 starts and a span of 1,975 days between those titles.
The gap between wins three and four was significantly shorter.
Seven days after Finau erased a five-stroke deficit heading into the final round of the 3M Open to earn his third Tour title, he made it back-to-back wins by shooting a final-round 5-under 67 at Detroit Golf Club to clinch the Rocket Mortgage Classic in The Motor City by five strokes over Patrick Cantlay, Taylor Pendrith and Cameron Young.
“They say a winner is just a loser that just kept on trying, and that’s me to a T,” Finau said. “How many times do I lose? But one thing I won’t do is give up, and I’m only here as a winner because I chose not to give up and just keep going.”
Finau, 32, became the first player to win consecutive tournaments since Patrick Cantlay did so a year ago at the BMW Championship and Tour Championship. It was Cantlay who produced the biggest threat to spoil Finau’s day. Cantlay birdied five of the first eight holes in his final round, but a bogey at No. 12 was costly. The reigning FedEx Cup champion shot 6-under 66, recording his Tour best 10th top-10 finish of the season.
“That’s what I’ve got to keep doing, just keep knocking on the door,” Cantlay said.
Pendrith, a 31-year-old Tour rookie from Canada, sat out 15 weeks with a fractured left rib. He had just one career top-10 finish entering the week but made 25 birdies in his first 54 holes to share the lead going into Sunday. Playing in the final group alongside Finau for the second day in a row, Pendrith’s inexperience showed as he carded an even-par 72 but still notched his best career finish. Young, a fellow rookie, closed in 68 to register his fifth runner-up finish this season, tying six other players for most in a season on Tour in the last 40 years, as he still seeks his first Tour title.
“Today, Tony beat us all by a lot, but it’s not fun being that close that often and not having one (victory),” Young said.
Tony Finau of the United States kisses the trophy after winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club on July 31, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
Despite his FedEx Cup Playoff triumph a year ago and Ryder Cup success, Finau suffered through a lull early this season as he and his family dealt with the death of his wife’s (Alayna) father. Finau ranked 150th in the FedEx Cup point standings heading into the Mexico Open in late April. Finau finished second there, and rediscovered his mojo.
“He’s a lot tougher than people think,” said Finau’s swing instructor, Boyd Summerhays. “I think persistence and patience were the two biggest things. He never lost self-belief during that lull. Once he got hot, he was hungry.”
Finau made birdies at the two par 5s on the front nine to grab the lead. He sank a clutch 11-foot par putt at the ninth and extended his lead with a 21-foot birdie putt one hole later at No. 10. Finau went 64 holes, the longest bogey-free stretch of his career, before making a three-putt bogey from 69 feet at No. 11. It was just his fifth bogey in his last eight rounds, during which he shot an eye-popping 44-under par.
How did Finau respond to his first bogey in Motown? At the 12th, he drained a 31-foot birdie and pumped his right fist as he stretched his lead to four shots over Pendrith.
“We all know he needs to make more putts on Sunday to get the job done, and he’s just done that,” Summerhays said.
This is the type of success expected of Finau for some time. He ranked first in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, second in SG: Off the Tee and third in driving accuracy.
“I think that’s a big reason I’ve been hitting so many greens,” he said of his driving prowess. “I’m just hitting a lot more fairways than I’m accustomed to or than I have in the past. This golf course really opens up to you if you hit it in the short grass.”
Since 1980, only two players have hit more greens in regulation in a 72-hole event on TOUR than Tony Finau (66 of 72) at the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic:
69, Peter Jacobsen, 1995 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
67, Willie Wood, 1996 Sanderson Farms Championship
— PGA TOUR Communications (@PGATOURComms) July 31, 2022
It didn’t hurt that Finau hit 66 of 72 greens in regulation, tying for the third-most on Tour since 1980, and was perfect in scrambling in six attempts. Finau shot a new tournament 72-hole scoring record of 26-under 262.
“It’s the culmination of him starting to hit it better than he ever has in his career, and he already was an unbelievable ballstriker,” Summerhays said. “Add in that he’s started to gain strokes on the green, and for him, he’s going to be there almost every single week.”
Despite his come-from-behind win last week in Minnesota, Finau still believed he had some unfinished business after catching a lucky break last week at 17 when his tee shot ricocheted off a sponsor chalet and stopped just short of the water and his drive at 18 rolled into the lake and cost him a penalty stroke. He wanted to finish this week in style as well as put to rest the stat that he had never secured a win in five previous attempts with the 54-hole lead or co-lead.
“For some reason I left (3M), and after bogeying the 18th hole I had kind of a sour taste in my mouth and I think it just gave me extra motivation to put myself there again this week and just prove to myself the kind of champion that I am and making birdies down the stretch when you really need them,” Finau said. “I thought that this week I was able to prove to myself the champion that I feel like I am.”
A champion whose wife was confident enough in her man that she flew to Detroit on Saturday night to be there. Behind the 18th green, Alayna waited for the final stroke to be struck and Tony rushed to wrap his arms around her. Their long kiss signified the struggles they have overcome and a job well done. Don’t look now, but Finau is starting to make a habit of these celebrations.