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Tony Finau finds fiery speed at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide

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Tony Finau finds fiery speed at the Memorial Tournament presented by Nationwide

    Tony Finau’s clutch bunker shot sets up par save at the Memorial

    DUBLIN, Ohio – Look out Bryson DeChambeau, Tony Finau is coming for you.

    Inspired by his Presidents Cup teammate DeChambeau’s pursuit of crazy distance, Finau has begun experimenting with increasing his swing speed to also send the ball further into the stratosphere.

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    And so far so good.

    Finau has opened the Memorial Tournament Presented by Nationwide with rounds of 66-69 to sit nine-under and tied for the lead at the halfway mark. Part of his success has been cranking his swing to 90 percent of his maximum speed, more than he has previously unleashed playing TOUR golf.

    Last season the average ball speed on the PGA TOUR was 170 miles per hour while Finau clocked in with an average 180 mph. The highest recorded speed was 198.91 mph from Cameron Champ while Finau maxed out at 187.6 mph.

    Through two rounds at Muirfield Village Finau has opened up and surpassed 185 mph off the tee eight times, with three of those surpassing 190 mph. His best, a roasting 193.158 mph on the par-4 18th hole in round one that resulted in a 367.9 yard drive.

    For comparison, DeChambeau averaged 175mph before his transformation last season. His quickest ball speed from round one at Muirfield was 194.552 mph. His infamous 423 yard drive on the opening hole came with 191.138 mph ball speed.

    Watching DeChambeau go hard at it and control it over the opening four weeks since the return to golf, and then seeing him win the Rocket Mortgage Classic, cemented the desire to experiment. They decided to work on “hitting a really hard fade.”

    “For someone like me that has that type of speed, looking at Bryson was pretty cool and inspiring,” Finau said. “So I was like, well, let me try this thing out, reach back and see if I can hit it as straight. I don't think I'm hitting it quite as straight as him, but it's worked out so far.”

    Finau says he still hasn’t given everything he’s got in the tournament and is not sure he will ever go at 100 percent. But we do have an idea what that might be. Last weekend he posted on Instagram a swing that had 206mph ball speed.

    “I've let a few go so far this week, and it's been pretty fun for me to kind of reach back more so than I have in the past and kind of open up and hit some,” he added. “I don't really ever go out at 100 percent when I'm playing tournament golf, but I would say this is the first time I've had some close to about 90 percent these first couple days. I rarely even swing probably over 80, 85 percent because I don't feel like I have enough control over the golf ball.

    “But after putting some extra time into that part of my game last week with my coach, I decided to let a few fly these first couple days, and it's been pretty fun for the most part and going pretty straight.”

    Finau says it’s not rocket science; he is simply just swinging harder. But he’s still trying to find the sweet spot of speed and accuracy. He hit just five of 14 fairways in round one and six in round two yet was second in the field in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee in the opening round and has gained over two and half strokes on the field so far through the opening two rounds.

    “I’ve got so much in the tank that I leave out. The result for me to try it hit it further is my swing just goes back a little bit further,” he explained. “It's not something that I think about; it's just something that happens when I try and hit it harder. I just stand over it and say I'm going to hit this one a little harder.

    “I'm still figuring it out. I don't know the exact balance. But the good thing is I've got that extra in the tank when I need it on certain holes. To fly a bunker on a handful of these holes I've got to kind of reach back and give it that extra. So it's nice to have that in the tank, but it definitely is a balance, not overdoing it and losing that accuracy.”

    While his social media accounts gave a warning to his speed, they also showed his form coming to Muirfield Village was pretty decent. Last Friday Finau and his coach played a round at Victory Ranch Golf Club in Park City Utah where he resides with their kids.

    Finau shot 59, beating the old course record of 62 he had set previously, and shared it online. It could have been even better given he was 14 under on the par-72 layout through 16 holes before a bogey on the 250-yard par-3 17th.

    “It kind of just told me how good I am at scoring the golf ball. I don't know how many times I've been 14-under through 16 holes on a good golf course. But it told me I was in good form,” Finau smiled recalling the day out.

    “I definitely carried some of that right into this week, and that confidence I think is pretty cool. It's only the second time I've ever shot in the 50s, so that was quite fun to have my boy there and some of his crew with me.”

    Finau is chasing his second PGA TOUR win after claiming the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. He’s had six runner up and two third place finishes since that victory. If he does win at Jack’s Place don’t be surprised to see a few more TOUR players start to search for more speed.

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