It’s all in the claw for Finau at Colonial
May 23, 2019
By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
Tony Finau leads by one over Spieth, Sloan at Charles Schwab
FORT WORTH, Texas – It was Sunday afternoon, and Tony Finau was not happy.
He had just ended a disappointing PGA Championship with a 9-over 79, tying the worst score in a single round in his PGA TOUR career. His T-64 finish was also surprising, given that he had top-10 results in four of the five previous majors.
The critical issue was on the greens. Finau was frustrated with his putting at Bethpage Black, where he ranked 125th in Strokes Gained: Putting. It was the breaking point of a recent stretch of poor putting, and so Finau decided that night to make a seemingly drastic change.
“I needed to switch something,” he said.
Enter the claw grip.
On Thursday, three holes into his opening round of the Charles Schwab Challenge, Finau stood over a birdie putt just under 20 feet. It was the start of Colonial’s Horrible Horseshoe, the three-hole stretch (Nos. 3, 4 and 5) that is among the toughest on TOUR. Finau drilled the putt.
At the par-4 seventh, he rolled in a 19-footer. Then on consecutive holes after the turn, he made birdie from 24-1/2 feet (at the 12th) and 27 feet (at the 13th). Then, just for good measure, he saved par at the par-3 16th with a 20-foot putt from the fringe after a poor chip from the other side of the green.
In all, he made just under 138 feet of putts with his flatstick Thursday, which explains why he shot a 6-under 64 to grab the early lead.
Suffice to say, the change to the claw paid immediate dividends.
“It’s something that I’ve kind of been thinking,” said Finau, who entered this week ranked T-100 in Strokes Gained: Putting this season. “It’s an itch I wanted to scratch … To me, it was just perfect time. … If I feel like something is better, I’m not afraid to change, no matter the results.”
In truth, the move to the claw may not be as dramatic as it seemed. Finau said he often has practiced with the claw in order to make sure his left hand is in the proper position.
“I’m left-hand dominant when I roll the stick,” he explained. “I used to putt cross-handed for about five years. Been putting conventionally now for a couple years.
“But I just wanted to switch it up. I haven’t been putting great … Standing over the ball, the most important thing is, do you feel like you’re going to make the putt or not? Outside of everything else, do you believe you can make the putt? …
“I wanted to try something difference, and it felt great out there today.”
A tight shot-maker’s course like Colonial can sometimes be frustrating for bombers, but Finau was not about to dial back one of his most lethal clubs. He said he stayed with driver off most tees, hitting iron just once and 4-wood another time.
Although he found just as many fairway bunkers as he did fairways (three of each), most of his misses were in the short cut. Left with some good lies, he hit 16 of 18 greens – and then took advantage with his putter.
Of course, the question now is whether the claw grip will continue to work for him this week. If nothing else, his outlook is much brighter than it was a few days ago.