2022 St. Jude Championship: Toni Finau misses third straight win but builds confidence in FedEx Cup playoffs

Tony Finau is not used to finishing in the top 10, albeit without a trophy, at a PGA Tour event this late in the season. However, his T6 on Sunday at St. Jude Championship, the first playoff event for the FedEx Cup, did not come with the usual note 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 finish his 2022 regular season.

Three wins in the last 12 months.

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

For the first three rounds in Memphis to start this year’s playoffs, the hunt for Finau was brisk. He opened with a 64 to put his name near the top of the leaderboard and – incredibly – barely dropped his average over his 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 closed with a 68, including a fairly um even 35 on the second nine, where he struggled most of the week. 68 was a good Sunday score, but not enough to join DJ in his 2016-17 three-game winning streak.

Still, Finau’s numbers remain outstanding; he entered the week ranked No. 3 in the world behind only Rory McIlroy and Scotty Scheffler in strokes gained from tee to green since May 1. He beat both of those players this week, so he’ll have 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 simplest. Finau was statistically solid throughout this week in Memphis, but he didn’t excel in any one area and uncharacteristically struggled from the start. In fact, although he was still winning strokes off tee, this week was 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. There is plenty of incentive for Finau to improve in the area where he has thrived most over the course of his career. The $18 million first prize for winning the FedEx Cup looms large, but so does winning the FedEx Cup. No, it’s not a major championship, and it might not even be the equivalent of winning Riviera or Moorfield Village or Bay Hill. It’s hard to fake a FedEx Cup, though, especially when you have to win the Tour Championship to do it. This would only add to his suddenly booming career.

Because of the way he finished the regular season, as well as his performance at TPC Southwind, Finau climbed to sixth in the FedEx Cup standings before the last two playoff events. He has a good look at grabbing one of the top spots in the Tour Championship and entering the final with a solid lead over the field of 30. To think about Finau startup a 10-under or 8-under golf tournament right now is terrifying.

It’s fair to say that while this isn’t a very different Finau from previous years 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 not leading the FedEx Cup after failing to achieve a rare third straight victory at the FedEx St. Jude Championship this weekend, he has shot 13 consecutive sub-70 rounds in the BMW Championship. When you factor in his FedEx Cup status and consistent quality of play, he may be in the best position of anyone to win the PGA Tour’s three-week postseason event.

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

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