Tony Finau has made a feast of close calls in his fifteen years on tour, only grabbing his second tour win last year. With that, he often finds himself congratulating a tournament winner. He said it’s not as difficult as it might seem.

“I have shown that type of sportsmanship from the beginning because I just think that’s the right way to go about it,” Finau said. “You got to want to win, but you got to truly be happy for the guys that are playing well, that are pushing the game forward, that deserve their wins.” 

A big breakthrough season for any professional golfer is a thing to celebrate – for the individual golfer and his family, of course, but also the greater golf community.

New challengers to the Powers That Be and to the Usual Suspects – those considered potential winners every week on tour – rise and fall, some winning here and there, others scoring top 10s often but failing to grab the big prize.

As Finau puts it, “They’re all earned out here, and so I’m generally happy when guys win, even if they’re beating me because that means they just played a little bit better and they did what it took to win that week.”

For a handful of lucky players, there comes the year in which everything clicks, and the long, long hours of practice finally pay off big.

For Tony Finau, 2022 could be that year.

Finau is one of the tour’s most popular players inside and outside the ropes. It’s been a long ride. Finau joined the tour in 2007 at the age of 17. The past 15 years have brought both promise and peril. 

Last season Finau scored his second tour win after a drought of five years, adding the Northern Trust championship to his win in Puerto Rico. Over that stretch, he came tantalizingly close to winning on numerous occasions, particularly in majors. But he couldn’t close the door.

The win at the Northern finally answered the question hovering over Finau: Is another win possible? Now, the question becomes: Can he be a consistent winner and a star among the Koepkas, and DeChambeaus?

“It’s made me more hungry to get better and try and do it again,” Finau said. “I think that’s the ultimate test. There are so many different levels and barriers to a breakthrough on the PGA Tour. Getting to multiple wins was a big deal for me, and now my eyes are set on getting number three, a third win, and so that’s where my focus is.

“I know how hard that second one came, and I put a lot of work into just getting better, and so that’s where my attention will be.”

Finau posted a final-round 65 in the Sentry Tournament of Champions a few weeks ago in Hawaii to finish in a tie for 19th.

Finau was targeted with the “When will you win again?” inquiry for five years. He swam through that period with a certain level of grace – and learning.

“I love the saying, ‘If it doesn’t kill you it makes you stronger,’ ” he said. “That’s something that I always had to tell myself kind of throughout that five-year drought and that stretch. I had so many expectations put on me to win, and not getting it done made me more hungry and just made me a stronger and better player.

“There are expectations when you get to a certain level. There are expectations that come with trying to become a great player and trying to become a great winner, and so you take them when they come and in stride and just keep going no matter what.”

Mike Hembree

Mike Hembree is a veteran journalist who has covered a variety of sports for numerous publications and websites, including USA Today, Fox Sports, TV Guide and The Greenville (S.C.) News. He has written 14 books and has won numerous writing awards at the national, regional and state levels. He is a seven-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.