"Winning breeds confidence," said Tony Finau throughout the week of the 2022 Houston Open. Claiming his fifth PGA Tour title -- and third in his last seven tournaments -- with a dominating performance at Memorial Park Golf Course, Finau's confidence is just now beginning to shine through. As quiet as it may have been, or may be, it is most certainly present. If Houston is any indication of what Finau is truly capable of, the rest of the PGA Tour should take notice.
Finishing the tournament at 16 under, Finau appeared to play a different golf course en route to besting the field by four strokes. Beginning his week with a benign opening nine, the 33-year-old found a different gear during his inward half on Thursday, playing it in 5 under and ascending to the top of the leaderboard.
Finau didn't look back from there as rounds of 62, 68 and 69 followed his first round of 5-under 65. Occupying the pole position for the entirety of the week, Finau slowly sucked the air out of the golf tournament thanks to a consistent long game and a new-found confidence with the putter in hand.
"I'm putting it better than I've ever putted it, more consistently and I know that's the part of my game I've always needed to be better at, so that on the technical side, for sure," said Finau at the onset of the weekend. "But the belief's there because of some of the success I've had over the last 16 months of my career, and I put myself in another nice situation this week."
Not only has Finau's belief transformed over the last 16 months, but so has the perception of him as a player. Long known as someone unable to seal the deal on Sundays, the American experienced his fair share of agonizing moments during a winless drought that lasted more than four years.
"I've always had belief, but the confidence when you win is contagious," said Finau. "I've always been a very hopeful person. I work extremely hard, and now I'm starting to bear the fruits of that labor, of all that work."
This drought has since turned into a deluge of victories as he now boasts four wins over the span of his last 32 tournaments. With so much success in such little time, and this subtle confidence of his now matching the obvious talent, what could be next for Finau?
While the PGA Tour, and golf as a whole, has turned into a young man's game with new stars like Tom Kim popping up on every corner, Finau is a stark contrast. He is now 33, five times a winner, a member of the last four United States teams between the Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup, and has consistently factored in at least one major championship per season since 2018.
Are 10 career victories and a major championship in the cards? Sixteen months ago, any response other than "no" would be complete lunacy, but here we are. A confident, persistent Finau has the potential to attain such accolades. In an era that features so much parity, Houston could be another building block towards just that. Grade: A+
Here are the grades for the rest of the leaderboard at the 2022 Houston Open.
T9. Scottie Scheffler (-6): The No. 2 player in the world holed out to end his tournament and his year on the PGA Tour. That's fitting considering only one player in the world got the ball in the cup with more efficiency than Scheffler throughout 2022. His T9 ends a nice little three-tournament fall after posting two top 10s and a T45 over the last month. This actually looks pretty similar to how last fall went, and we all know about the spring that followed. Scheffler finished second this week in strokes gained tee to green, which is notable because it's a reminder that if the putter bounces back starting in January, we could be in for another run from somebody who I think is still pretty underrated in the golf world. Grade: B
T22. Sahith Theegala (-4): Theegala will be in the field next week at the RSM Classic, and he goes into the last event of the fall with a little bit of momentum. He finished T22 in Houston after a T6 at the Fortinet and a T5 at the Zozo Championship earlier in the fall. Most importantly for him, he's hitting the ball as well as he is all fall. His approach numbers in Houston were fabulous, and his last season shows that his best iron play comes in batches. It's not difficult to envision Theegala notching his first victory on the PGA Tour at the last event of the year and making a bit of a leap heading into the brief offseason. Grade: B+
T22. Aaron Wise (-4): I'll take any opening I can to write about Wise. This is his third consecutive top 25 this fall, though it feels a bit like a wasted opportunity. He was lights out on and around the greens this week, but could not get his normally reliable irons going and finished 63 in approach and 54th off the tee. That's not a massive concern regarding Wise because his recent history doesn't suggest he's in a tee-to-green slump; rather, it's one that he'll likely look back on and wish that he had his usual stuff because he likely could have made at least a bit of a run at Finau on the weekend. Grade: B
T39. Harris English (E): After missing February through May with an injury, English did not play well to close out the 2021-22 PGA Tour season. His fall has been a bit better. He's made five of six cuts and had his second-best driving week of the last six events in Houston. After thriving on the Ryder Cup team last fall, English got a bit lost in the shuffle with everything that was going on in the golf world and because he wasn't playing well (or at all) for most of the year. It would be great to see him get back in the mix at the RSM and beyond as he works his way back toward being a top 30 player in the world. Grade: B-