Tony Finau gets the monkey off his back at The Northern Trust
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Tony Finau gets the monkey off his back at The Northern Trust



Tony Finau finally got the job done.

He defeated Cameron Smith on the first playoff hole after Smith hit his tee shot out of bounds as the two played the 18th hole for a second time. Finau shot a six under 65 Monday to chase down Smith and Jon Rahm, who led thru 54 holes. He played holes 12-14 in four under, made a key par after driving it in the 6th fairway at the 15th, and brushed in a huge six-footer at the 18th.

After enduring so many close calls—Finau had 11 top-3 finishes since his last win—he finally earned his second PGA Tour win, his first since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.

“This is really cool for me. It’s been a long time, five years, everybody knows it. I’m going to have some extreme confidence going into the next few weeks,” Finau said.

Finau isn’t one to show his emotions on the course—he has said he models his on-course demeanor after Ernie Els—but he gave a huge (at least for him) fist pump after making the clutch putt on 18. He added one more for good measure after tapping in for the win. When it was all over, Finau looked more relieved than anything else.

The second shot at 13 is visually intimidating as it is entirely carry over the water, but Finau hit the shot of the day. He had just 217 yards to the hole and threw a dart that set up an eagle to move him into a tie for the lead at 18-under.

“I knew if I hit a good drive I was going to have a good look for eagle. It was a perfect number for me. And that kind of got me rolling," Finau said.

After misreading a putt for 59 on 18 Saturday, Smith had a putt to win outright on the same hole, but he left it short and settled for a playoff. Besides that putt, the fifth hole kept Smith from holding the trophy. He pulled his drive into the water hazard left and was forced to drop on the forward tee box.

His fourth shot also was also pulled and stayed out of the hazard left of the green by about six inches. A remarkable up and down saved double and kept him in the tournament. But in the end, it wasn’t enough, as the drive on 18 in the playoff doomed his chances.

“Just a terrible swing, mate. Just a mis-hit, and in these conditions, you can't mis-hit the ball,” Smith said. “Got a little off the bottom and a little bit off the heel and just blew up in the wind and went a long ways right,” Smith said.

According to Smith, this isn’t the first time his driver has let him down under pressure.

“My driver has cost me a few tournaments this year. That makes mean more determined to try and figure it out before the end of the year,” Smith said.

At one point, it seemed like Rahm would open a big lead. but two misses from inside 10 feet on 9 and 10 let the chasers back in it. After leading through the first three rounds and going bogey-free on the front nine to finish 14-under for the week on that side, Rahm finally looked human down the stretch Monday.

He made bogey at 15 after finding the fairway bunker, had a simple chip for his second shot at 16 but ran it 30 feet past, and couldn’t birdie either of the last two to come up two shots short.

“15 is the one I keep going to. I hit every single one of those five shots the way I wanted to, and that's the unfortunate part,” Rahm said. “(On) that (shot into the) bunker, the wind didn't push the ball the way I thought, and I think that was the difference.”

Finau wasn’t the only one who turned in a clutch performance Monday. Keith Mitchell needed to birdie his final three holes to move inside the top 70 in the FedEx Cup standings and earn a spot in the BMW Championship.

He knocked it stiff on 16 and buried the putt, then made two putts from outside 10 feet to keep his season alive.

“I was pretty down on myself in the middle of the 15th fairway, and to be standing here after getting up and down on 15 for par and then birdieing the last three holes to play next week,” Mitchell said. “It took a lot of calming my nerves and trying to remember that this is it, I've got three holes left to keep playing or I'm going home. I just decided to stick with it and that putt on 18 sealed the deal.”

About the author

Peter Santo

Peter Santo

Peter Santo is a golf writer and a graduate of Emerson College. He previously covered all sports for The Boston Globe, Associated Press, and The Washington Times.

When not writing about or playing golf, he can often be found listening to or creating country music.

He can be reached by email at petersanto1129@gmail.com

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