BLAINE, Minn. — Tony Finau spent a portion of a six-hour weather delay on Saturday fishing with his kids, catching mostly bluegill in the pond by his rental home off the 10th fairway at TPC Twin Cities. When the tournament eventually resumed, he finished off a 65, which he hoped was enough to get him in the mix come Sunday.
Boy was it ever.
Just as Scott Piercy was imploding and giving up his massive lead, Finau got hot and took advantage, shooting a four-under 67 to win the 3M Open and claim his third career PGA Tour victory.
Finau finished 17-under overall, besting Sungjae Im and Emiliano Grillo by three. Piercy signed for a 76 – beating only four players on Sunday – and tied for fourth.
Finau’s family was here to greet him, too. His wife and five kids have been traveling with him nearly everywhere this summer, but they weren’t there when he won his other two PGA Tour starts, at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open and, most recently, the Northern Trust last fall. The latter ended a lengthy winless drought.
“To get a win with them here just means everything. It’s an amazing feeling to walk off a green knowing you won the tournament and walk right into your family, your kids’ arms,” Finau said. “It’s quite a special feeling. It’s something I’ve thought about and dreamed about for a long time. For that to come to fruition for me and my family today is pretty amazing. I’m humbled by it and hopefully my kids will remember this for a long time.”
It’s been an odd year for Finau. He’s played well, but many times not well enough. He’s finished as a runner-up twice this year and tied for fourth another time. This all came after a January-to-March stretch in which he missed three cuts in four starts.
The turning point, he says, came at the WGC-Match Play in March, which was two weeks after he shot 76-75 at the Players. He said he tweaked his setup, and it improved his aim and allowed him to swing more freely.
He entered this week as the highest-ranked player in the field (No. 16) and coming off a Sunday 66 at the Open Championship, which vaulted him into a tie for 28th.
“My game is as good as it’s ever been in really all aspects,” Finau said. “I expected myself to contend and win again this year, so to be able to do it this late in the season when you’re running out of tournaments and you put that type of expectation on yourself, it’s so satisfying.”
Still, Sunday’s finish was hard to predict. Finau entered the day five shots back as everyone was chasing Piercy, which was basically the story all week. He was tied for the lead after Round 1, leading by three after Day 2 and increased his lead to four before the final round, which included a 54-hole scoring record (18 under) that eclipsed the previous tournament record by three shots.
But Piercy looked shaky from the start and let his round get away from him around the turn. Even though he bogeyed 8 and 9, he still turned with a four-shot lead over Finau. Yet a couple of hours later, Finau walked to the 18th tee leading Piercy by four.
Piercy’s lead was three when he stepped to the dogleg par-4 14th, but his drive found a fried-egg lie on the slope of a fairway bunker and he couldn’t advance it out of the sand. He then took on the water with his next shot from 163 yards, but his ball splashed short of the green.
Before Piercy even hit his second shot on 14, Finau, who birdied 11, was rolling in a birdie putt on 14. By the time Piercy finished the hole, he was two behind Finau and in a tie for third.
Finau added the exclamation point a few minutes later, draining a 32-footer for birdie on 15. He made it three straight birdies when he got up and down from around the green on the short par-4 16th.
“When I really needed to hole putts, I did start on 11, again on 14, 15, 16,” Finau said. “I mean, I made some really crucial putts when I really needed them.”
For how much the tournament changed, Finau didn’t even know he was leading until he saw a scoreboard on 16 green.
“My heart almost skipped a beat,” he said. “I couldn’t believe it. I said, ‘Wait a sec here.'”
And if you didn’t think this was Finau’s week, you were wrong. The golf gods gave him some help on 17. He overshot the green on the par-3, but instead of going well past the hole, it ricocheted off the grandstand and bounced back pin high in the rough. It held up on the ledge and missed going in the water by mere inches, and he calmly chipped it close and took his par. Leading by four, he flashed a big smile walking off the green and gave his ball a kiss. He knew he got away with one.
“I called a bank in the air,” Finau quipped.
The assist helped, because his drive on 18 barely trickled into the water guarding the right side of the fairway. But it hardly mattered; he wasn’t losing this lead this late.
Fine seed 3 1/2 feet for bogey. As he waited for his playing partners to finish, tournament organizers ushered in Finau’s family members to the ramp behind the green. Finau sank the putt, waved to the crowd and pumped his fist towards his family. This was their first time to celebrate this kind of ending with him.
Thirty minutes later, in the media center near the 18th green, one of his sons picked up the 3M Open trophy off the table where Finau was about to give his press conference. His father quickly stopped him. It needed to be a centerpiece a few minutes later. Soon enough it would belong to the Finau family.