PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Tony Finau is already in the midst of his fifth year on the PGA Tour.
The Lehi resident has tasted plenty of success during his time at golf’s highest level. Along with his 2016 Puerto Rico Open win, he’s come close to tasting victory with five second-place finishes, four in official events since September 2017. Last year he rode a stretch of 11 top-10 finishes in 28 tournament starts all the way to his first U.S. Ryder Cup team.
In arguably golf’s biggest event outside of the Masters, Finau delivered an impressive performance in the Ryder Cup, going 2-1. He even hit the very first shot of the raucous event, and dominated his Sunday singles match 6 and 4 against Europe’s previously undefeated Tommy Fleetwood.
“It was like nothing I’ve ever been a part of in my life,” Finau said of the Ryder Cup.
Finau and playing partner Brooks Koepka actually lobbied their captain so they could go first.
“We wanted to set the tone for this Ryder Cup.”
Though the U.S. team ultimately fell short, Finau took valuable experience from performing on that massive stage. After all, he fought hard just to grab that final spot from rising Tour stars.
“Having been on the Ryder Cup team and being around 11 of the best players in the world, it has given me a lot of confidence," Finau told the Fairways of Life Show in January. I feel like I can play at a high level and I proved that to myself on the biggest stage at the Ryder Cup,”
But it’s not just Finau who’s seeing a new confidence. His coach, fellow Utahn Boyd Summerhays — who’s been with him for nearly five years — sees that same increase in confidence.
“The Ryder Cup and his success there was massive for his confidence,” Summerhays said.
“He knows he’s one of the best players in the world and one of the most consistent.”
But just how confident is the 29-year-old, who stands No. 12 in the Official World Golf Ranking?
“I believe I can be a multiple-time winner this year. I’ve got my sights pretty high for myself this year,” Finau told Fairways of Life.
And he should. The tall, lean and upbeat Utahn has always been a long hitter, averaging in the top 10 during all five seasons on the PGA Tour.
Finau has even gained four and a half shots since 2014, his rookie year, in total strokes gained, a stat that measures players' efficiency with all facets of their golf game relative to their competition.
He is always the long hitter, but his short game has become another undeniable strength.
“He’s got one of the best short games on Tour right now,” Finau’s caddie Greg Bodine said during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am earlier this month.
In 2014-15, Finau’s rookie season, he averaged 96th in strokes gained around the green. This year he’s up to No. 11.
“Eleventh in shots gained around the green, and with 200-plus guys (he’s competing against), that’s pretty close to elite short game,” Bodine said.
Summerhays also sees an improvement on the greens. Finau went from 148th in overall putting average (which divides the number of putts by the number of holes played) in 2017 to tied for 27th following last week’s Genesis Open.
Finau has produced plenty of improvement in the numbers, so now the focus for both him and Summerhays becomes more clear.
“Our focus is to continue to get in position on the back nine (Sundays) and get his next win this season,” Summerhays said. “The next win, in my opinion, will breed more and more winning.”
On a local level, Finau lives in Lehi and loves Utah golf. Two of his favorite courses are Alpine Country Club in Highland and Victory Ranch Golf Club in Kamas.
“I think both of the golf courses are unique in their own way. I enjoy playing mountain golf courses. I grew up on them, and I think you can always learn from playing those types of courses,” Finau told the Deseret News.
“I grew up playing at altitude, so I’m actually now more accustomed to playing at sea level than altitude just because I’m on the road so much.”
Finau appreciates the diversity in layout between the two courses, and will often play with Tour player Jimmy Walker at Victory Ranch.6 comments on this story
“They’re both beautiful golf courses, both very traditional," Finau said. "Victory is a little different, little more links style, a lot of elevations, hitting some different shots and you’ve got to learn how to hit different shots, but both golf courses are challenging in their own way.”
On practice days at home or at McDowell Mountain Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Summerhays teaches, Finau likes to practice mostly on course where “it allows (practice) to be much more visual and simulated to get better feedback and results,” says Summerhays.
Seems to be working.