St. Jude 2022: Tony Finau misses out on third straight win but boosts FedEx Cup playoff confidence

Tony Finau is not used to finishing in the top 10, albeit without a trophy, on the PGA Tour at the end of the season. However, his T6 Sunday at the St. Jude Championship, the first FedEx Cup playoff event, did not carry the usual tinge of disappointment.

After a career full of near misses when it came to winning PGA Tour events, Finau took The Northern Trust to start the FedEx Cup Playoffs last season and then swept the 3M Open and Rocket Mortgage Classic back-to-back to close out his 2022 regular season.

Three wins in the last 12 months.

This week at TPC Southwind, Finau was the defending champion – somewhat surprising considering he’s never won a golf tournament there. He was aiming to become just the second golfer since Rory McIlroy in 2014 to win three consecutive PGA Tour starts. Dustin Johnson did it in 2017, and Finau would join a list that also includes Tiger Woods, David Duvall and Vijay Singh. These five are the only professionals on the Tour perform a feat in the last quarter of a century. Depending on how you interpret the data, Tiger did it 14 different times.

Through the first three rounds in Memphis to start this year’s playoffs, the hunt for Finau was alive and well. He opened with a 64 to put his name at the top of the leaderboard and – incredibly – barely lowered his average over the last 10 rounds. Scores of 68 and 69 followed and Finau gave himself an outside shot at victory as he was just four shots off the lead heading into the final round. He finished with a 68, including a pretty steep par 35 on the back nine, where he struggled most of the week. 68 was a good score Sunday, but not enough to join DJ in his 2016-17 three-game winning streak.

Still, Finau’s numbers remain exceptional; he entered the week ranked No. 3 in the world, trailing only Rory McIlroy and Scotty Scheffler in strokes gained on the green since May 1. He beat both of those players this week, so he’s either closed the gap or erased it altogether. Tee-to-green play isn’t the only formula for winning golf tournaments, but it’s certainly the easiest. Finau was statistically solid throughout this week in Memphis, but he didn’t stand out in any one area and uncharacteristically struggled against you. In fact, even though he was still hitting the tee, this week marked his second-worst driving performance since early March behind only the US Open.

This is something that can (and probably will) be fixed over the next two tournaments. Finau has plenty of incentive to improve in the area where he has had the most success throughout his career. The $18 million first prize for winning the FedEx Cup is big, but the FedEx Cup is also big. No, it’s not a major championship, and it’s not even the equivalent of winning Riviera, Muirfield Village or Bay Hill. However, it’s hard to fake the FedEx Cup, especially when you have to win the Tour Championship. It would only add to his suddenly expanded career resume.

Thanks to the way he finished the regular season, as well as his play at TPC Southwind, Finau moved up to sixth in the FedEx Cup standings heading into the final two playoff events. He has a good shot at capturing one of the Tour Championship’s top spots and starting the final with a healthy lead over the field of 30. Think Finau starting a 10 or 8 under golf tournament is terrifying right now.

To be fair, while this Finau isn’t much different from years past in terms of his talent and statistical success, his confidence is as high as it’s ever been on the PGA Tour. After two wins and another top 10 this week in Memphis, how could it not be? So, while Finau is out of the FedEx Cup lead after failing to capture a rare third straight win at the FedEx St. Jude this weekend, he has 13 rounds of 70 in a row in the BMW Championship. Given his FedEx Cup status and consistent quality of play, he is arguably in the best position of anyone to win the PGA Tour’s three-week postseason tournament.

Finau’s near misses haven’t always been great in the past, but this one, when you consider what has preceded it, has many people even more optimistic about the future.

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