August 02, 2022

Fabulous Finau wins second-straight event with Rocket Mortgage Classic 2022

By Amlan Sanyal

Tony Finau overcame a field of golfers chasing their first victory of the season and added his second win in two weeks by winning the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday at Detroit Golf Club. He essayed a performance of laudable steadiness and set the course record (-26). He became the first man since Brendan Todd in 2019 to secure PGA Tour victories in consecutive weeks.

Going into the 4th round at Detroit Golf Club, Finau led the field through 54 holes for the sixth time in his career, never having registered a win from that position. He laid to rest any speculation about his inability to close out famous events by carding two birdies in the first nine holes on Sunday.

It took 64 holes to finally force a bogey out of the unflappable American. He quickly recovered on the very next hole to birdie from 30 ft out. It was a majestic shot that punctuated his mastery over the course.

Finau commanded every aspect of the game, hitting 66 greens; his tally never dropped below 16 greens in any round. He drove with commendable accuracy, placing third in Driving Accuracy Percentage (82.14%;46/56 fairways hit). Despite all of his dominance, the President’s Cup hopeful never looked overly taxed down the stretch, grasping control atop the proceedings and never letting go.

Riding the crest of a wave that began in earnest at the Mexico Open two months ago, Finau has compiled a series of impressive finishes. T2 in Mexico, T4 at The Colonial Country Club, and two at St. George’s Golf and Country Club before winning the 3M Classic and the Rocket Mortgage Classic. He’s moved up to 7th in the FedEx Cup standings and can dream of carrying this momentum into the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

The defending FedEx Cup Champion Patrick Cantlay was his nearest competitor, shooting rounds of 70-65-66-66 en route to a T2 finish tied with Cameron Smith and Taylor Pendrith. The most consistent player this season, Cantlay has compiled 10 Top 10 finishes but has been unable to leverage his reliability into victories. He remains winless in the solo competition this regular season.

He started slowly in Detroit, signing a modest round of 70 in Round 1, but gained over three strokes, putting and finished at (-21) on the back of three impressive series. Despite his brilliance down the stretch, his unremarkable score in Round 1 left him unable to close the distance with Finau. Even though he walked away empty-handed from yet another event, the PGA Tour Player of the Year will be encouraged by his sustained performance levels leading up to The FedEx Cup Playoffs. The incumbent champion will be hoping to replicate his magical run from last year and remains a favourite for the FedEx Cup.

Cameron Young, the likely PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, finished in T2 as well. He played within himself for extended periods on Sunday before finishing off with birdies in holes 13,14,16 and 17. The birdie on the 17th hole featured an impressive shot onto the green (-21).

The 25-year-old rookie has had a stellar first season on tour, becoming the second player since the start of the 2016-17 season with four or more second-place results in a season. Much like Cantlay, this level of consistency has not yielded a victory on Tour. But he has managed seven top ten finishes overall. He has been embellished as one of the best all-around players on tour, performing well in vastly different conditions.

Still, he has stamped his credentials as the best young player this season and is sure to be rewarded with his first win, sooner rather than later. His T2 finish in the Rocket Mortgage Classic vaulted him into ninth place in the FedEx Cup standings, making him the only player in the top 10 this year without a victory. Young is the best bet currently for the Arnold Palmer Award, but he will have to compete against a stacked ballot of talented rookies to clinch the much-coveted honour.

The other rookie to distinguish himself in the event was the 31-year-old Canadian, Taylor Pendrith. In his third event back from the injury (fractured rib) that sidelined him for four months, he bounced back admirably, finishing with a career-best T2 in Detroit Golf Club, holding a share of the lead in each of the four days of competition. He started the tournament wonderfully, shooting to the top of the leaderboard on Thursday, with five birdies in seven holes on the back nine.

His 8-under 64 in the first round set him up for the second day, where he seized sole control of the lead and finished with a 7-under 65. When he shot a 6-under 66 on Saturday, he must have felt good about winning the entire tournament, but any hopes of a victory for him were dashed very soon on Sunday as he faltered in the second hole, shooting a five-stroke bogey. He never really looked comfortable from then on, ending with bogeys on holes 12 and 16 to finish five strokes adrift of Finau at (-21).

He will undoubtedly rue his nervy performance in Round 4. But there is little he could have done to thwart Finau, who set a course record (-26). His second top 10 finish of the season, the T2 finish catapulted him 38 places up from 104 to 66 in the FedEx Cup standings.

Elsewhere in the field, another Wake Forest alumnus Will Zalatoris registered a disappointing T20 after starting with rounds of 70 and 71. He finished well, signing rounds of 69-65, which helped him claw his way into the top 20. He will look ahead to the Wyndham Championship this week as he chases his first career win. To do that, he will need to ally his great ball-striking ability with better play around and accuracy on the green. The talented youngster ranks outside the top 50 in both metrics.

The gifted South Korean Joohyung Kim (who goes by Tom) capped off the tournament with a memorable display, matching a Detroit Golf Club tournament course record with a 9-under 63 in Round 4 which helped him gain sufficient non-member FedExCup points to secure a 2022-23 PGA Tour Card. The highly touted 20-year-old who takes his English nickname from Thomas the Train started the final day T24, but his exploits in Round 4 moved him safely within the top 10.

The Tour moves to the Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield CC for the final event in the regular season calendar this week. The epilogue of the regular season promises close competition with no shortage of dramatic storylines around the top 125 players on the FedEx Cup Eligibility Points list as they vie for their spot in the FedEx Cup Playoffs.

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