Finau comes up just short at Waste Management Phoenix Open
Had two-shot lead with three to play until Simpson comeback
February 02, 2020
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
Tony Finau gets up-and-down for birdie at Waste Management
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – There was a storybook quality to it all.
Tony Finau kept wearing his Kobe Bryant jersey to play the rowdy 16th hole, and kept hitting great shots and gesturing swish with his right hand after the ball dove in the hole.
He hadn’t made the cut in his last four trips to the Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale, but now he was a Scottsdale resident, having moved here in the off-season. That meant he could be closer to his coach, Boyd Summerhays, and it meant that the entire Finau family could come out and watch him earn his first victory since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.
And it was happening. It was happening. Finau had looked only slightly wobbly and still nursed a one-shot lead over Webb Simpson as he walked to the 18th tee on Sunday.
“C’mon, Tony!” a fan yelled. “Show the 801! Let’s go!”
The 801, as in Utah’s area code. Utah, where a winter storm warning was in effect Sunday night into Monday, but Finau no longer lives there in the winter. He’s making some changes.
The story, alas, did not have a happy ending. Simpson birdied 18, Finau watched his downhill attempt from 8 1/2 feet slide by on the right, and they were tied. When Simpson birdied the first playoff hole, also the 18th, from a similar line to the one he’d seen in regulation, it was over.
Finau took it well, congratulating Simpson for his two birdies on 18 in a span of 20 minutes, but there was no mistaking how much this one hurt. The choked sobs of Finau’s oldest boy, 8, who was waiting greenside with two of his siblings and his mother, said it all. A two-shot lead with three to go had evaporated, and the playoff had ended quickly and mercilessly.
“He got the upper hand this time,” Finau said, “but I love that guy, and that’s one hell of a finish. If you’re going to birdie 18 a couple of times, you’re probably going to win.”
True, the runner-up hadn’t lost it, as Finau did nothing more egregious than make a handful of pars coming in. He just couldn’t convert short birdie tries on 15 and 18 that would’ve sealed it.
“I had some looks to win the golf tournament and they didn’t go my way today,” he said.
Simpson and Finau are Presidents Cup teammates, and they are friends. Although the winner was pleased to earn the trophy after four runner-up finishes since last summer, it hurt him just a little that the player he beat was Finau. For everyone else, it was a reminder that sometimes golf is cruel.
“Yeah, it’s hard,” Simpson said. “I actually thought about that out there. He’s one of my good friends on TOUR. We’ve talked about playing together in team events as partners. I’m comfortable with him. I love his caddie, Greg. And so that part’s hard.
“I mean, we’re after the same thing,” he added.
Finau had nothing to feel bad about, Simpson continued, after making clutch birdies on 12 and 13. He hit great shots coming in, he’s a world-class player, he will be around for a long time.
True. All of it.
“I had a great chance to win this week,” Finau said. “Unfortunately, it didn’t happen, but my game’s better than it’s ever been. I have more confidence than I’ve ever had. And again, if you know anything about me, I’ll persevere through anything.”
Whether you want to call this a stumbling block or a learning experience, Finau said, he remains intent on victory No. 2.
“I’ll knock it off soon,” he said, “and will be on my way.”