Finau attributes success of late to avoiding tinkering with his game

Mark McGowan

Tony Finau - Getty Images

With four wins in his last 18 starts, only Jon Rahm has a better winning percentage than Tony Finau over the past nine months. Though the field that assembled at the Mexico Open last week may have paled in comparison to those that Rahm or Scottie Scheffler have routinely dismantled this season, Finau’s reputation as a non-closer has been firmly dismantled since notching his second PGA Tour victory at the Fed-Ex Playoff’s Northern Trust back in 2021.

Since then, he’s added the Rocket Mortgage Classic, the 3M Open and the Houston Open, before outgunning Rahm in the closing round at Vidanta Vallarta to capture his sixth PGA Tour win, and though he’s yet to bag a maiden major title, he can boast top-5 finishes in all four.

Speaking to the press ahead of the Wells Fargo championship at Quail Hollow, the seventh Tour event to offer prize money of $20 million or better, Finau admitted that, though he’s hitting the ball better than ever, his putting has been the number one differentiator when assessing his recent success.


“Yeah, I think I’m incrementally hitting the golf ball better,” he said. “Just through time, I’ve learned a lot about my swing and things, so I think that has helped.

“I would say the No. 1 thing has just been my putting. I decided in 2022 at the beginning oflast year my No. 1 goal on my goal sheet was don’t change your putter grip this year and see what happens. That literally was my first and only goal; not only goals, my first goal, which was just the priority.

“Anytime I was in a putting rut, I seemed to switch grips or switch putting heads. It was a quick fix, it wasn’t an overall and it was exactly that. I’d have a great week or two and then I’d be back in the same mess if not even a deeper hole with my putting further down the stretch.

“So I decided that I was going to commit to putting conventionally for a full season no matter
how I was putting, just figure it out. I think I’m enjoying the success of what that looks like for
me on just being able to dissect the same putting stroke with the same putter, the same
putting grip style. I think I would say that that’s where most of my success has come.

Because it takes time for swing changes to bed in, and players will inevitably see a dip in performance as they try to become comfortable with new paths, a change in putting technique is often viewed as the quick fix, and a change of putter, grip or technique can yield instantaneous results leading to confirmation bias, and the temptation to tinker is something that Finau feels can be detrimental to your game in the long run.

“No question,” he responded when asked if players experiment too much. “I think it’s a great lesson to be learned. It’s a lot better to be great at one thing than tinker around with 10,000 different techniques and trying to figure it out.

“I think Bruce Lee has a saying about something like that. He’s more scared of the guy who practices one punch 10,000 times than someone who practices 10,000 things one time. I’d say I agree with that.”

A Salt Lake City, Utah native, Finau now resides in Scottsdale, Arizona, and practices at the Silver Leaf Club where Jon Rahm and Max Homa are also members, and playing regularly with the world number one in particular is something that Finau partly attributes his recent success.

“If you play with someone of his stature and his caliber often,” Finau explains, “just rubbing shoulders with him, you’re going to be better. Talking with him about the game, he speaks about the game as a very simple game. He’s very simple minded when it comes to playing the game of golf, which is very refreshing because it’s an extremely difficult game and sometimes I think we look at it as an impossible game, which at the end of the day somebody has to win.

“I think my mindset has changed from how hard it is to win before and now it’s like, well, on Sunday somebody’s going to win, there is going to be somebody that’s holding that trophy. I think he’s helped me kind of see clearly that mindset because that’s the type of mindset that he has.”

After beating Rahm to the finish line in Mexico, a candid camera video clip went viral of Finau carrying bags for his children on the floodlit par-3 course, further solidifying the family-man persona that came across so well on Netflix’ Full Swing documentary series.

“No, I played,” he responded when asked if he’d just caddied for his kids. “Yeah, you know, my son and I were out there every night, so it wasn’t — that happened to be Sunday night, but my son and I were out there every night, and sometimes two of my boys. My younger son Sage is starting to get into it.

“During the [Masters] par-3 contest this year, I had him hit a putt. He doesn’t like golf at all, he just likes being with dad. I had him hit a putt from 12 feet after I hit a shot there and he ended up making the putt. Everybody went crazy and it kind of changed his whole persona about golf, he wanted to hit the next putt and the next putt. Ever since then he’s been asking me to play golf, so I took him out a couple times last week.

“Yeah, that was just on Sunday and somebody happened to catch that, but it was just cool to cap off an amazing week with my boys and be on the golf course. I fell in love with the game of golf playing evening golf with my dad and my brother and it brings back memories that are just unforgettable.

“Hopefully my boys are enjoying it like I was when I was a kid, just being with my dad and my brother. It’s just special to be with them no matter what. If I would have finished second I would have been with them still. My boys were counting on me and that’s something that I take pride in just as a father.”

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