It took Tony Finau eight years to accumulate his first two PGA Tour wins. His next two took just eight days.
Finau touched off his second consecutive PGA Tour win at the Rocket Mortgage Classic on Sunday at Detroit Golf Club by five strokes over Cameron Young, Taylor Pendrith and Patrick Cantlay after winning the 3M Open the Sunday prior. In the process, he continues to shed his reputation as a competitor who is always in the mix but rarely capable of closing out PGA Tour events.
That was always the big knock on Big Tone. He strung together 39 top 10s on the PGA Tour between his first win in 2016 at the Puerto Rico Open and his next one at the 2021 Northern Trust. He didn't even play 39 tournaments until his next two victories. So whether the labels were fair or not, which is a hotly debated golf nerd topic, it has become clear they are no longer applicable.
Winning is largely overrated on the PGA Tour when determining the best players in a given stretch, but over the course of a career, winning absolutely matters. Nobody, not even Finau, thinks otherwise. And to be considered one of the better players in the world, he needed to add to his meager collection of Ws, even if it happened at a couple of lesser events at the end of the summer.
You can credit Finau's recent winning windfall to a lot of different factors, but the man in the arena says it's the byproduct of keeping his head down and continuing to grind.
"I'm proud of the way that I fought through adversity through my career and now I'm a back-to-back champion," said Finau on Sunday in Detroit. "That's what happens. They say a winner is just a loser that just kept on trying, and that's me to a T. 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."
Grinding with a great attitude alone never won anybody anything, of course. While it's true that Finau took down two of the weaker fields of the season, it's also true that he's raised his game in final rounds -- he ranks second on the PGA Tour in fourth-round scoring average this season -- and is playing better with the lead than he has in the past. According to Data Golf, when entering the final round of an event inside the top three, Finau has put together his two best and three of his nine best performances ever in the final round of tournaments over the last six weeks. He won two of them.
This is emblematic of the quality of golf Finau has been playing. After starting the first four months of the year in a bit of a slump -- Finau ranked outside the top 70 in strokes gained, behind players like Matthew NeSmith and Denny McCarthy -- Finau has picked up the pace. Since the day before the Mexico Open, where he finished runner up, Finau ranks No. 4 in the world in strokes gained behind Rory McIlroy, Xander Schauffele and Matt Fitzpatrick.
His recent run is even more astounding: three top-two finishes in his last six starts and a stretch starting at the 3M last week where he shot 67-68-65-67-64-66-65-67. It doesn't matter what the course looks or plays like, when you go eight rounds and your worst score is 68, that's about the highest level of golf imaginable.
Tony Finau’s last 2 weeks:— Shane Bacon (@shanebacon) August 1, 2022
144 total holes played
47 total birdies (5.9 per round)
4 total bogeys (!!)
89 of 112 fairways hit (79%)
126 of 144 greens in regulation (88%)
66.13 scoring average
Finau has always been considered one of the best people in professional golf. With five kids and an entire community behind him (see video below), his professional endeavors have always seemed to be less about money and fame and more about family and unadulterated delight in the game. That made it even more enjoyable to see him come a bit undone on Sunday after winning his second straight tournament.
"My kids, they see the work that dad puts in," he said on Sunday while getting choked up. "The sacrifice I make for our family. The time it takes to be great at something. It means everything to me that my kids can watch me not only fail but watch me win as well. That's what it takes to be a champion."
Finau is a champion, and with the momentum he's consolidated, you could make the argument he's now the favorite to win something he's never won before -- the FedEx Cup. The only two players who are arguably playing at a higher clip than Finau right now are McIlroy and Schauffele, but with his win on Sunday, Finau moved into the No. 7 spot in the FedEx Cup points race and will be on the short list of favorites to win East Lake at the end of August.
"Another goal is to win the FedExCup, and I put myself in position to do that," said Finau on Sunday. "Scottie's going to be extremely hard to catch. Sam Burns, those guys have had unbelievable seasons. I think Cameron Smith is up there. Those guys will be hard to catch, but the way the points work in the FedExCup, you're able to race up that, climb that ladder pretty fast. I at least have given myself a chance to do that. I think I've been quoted saying it many times before, a week can change your life. I guess when you look at mine, two weeks is now back-to-back weeks has now changed my life and it's a great feeling
Much will depend, of course, on how the first two playoff events unfold, but with the way Finau is playing and the confidence and momentum he has rolling downhill right now, the winning might not be over. In fact, it might just be getting started.