Veterans Padraig Harrington and Matt Kuchar each shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to share the early lead with MJ Daffue and Roberto Diaz in the weather-delayed first round of the Valero Texas Open.
Finau’s karma, Brooke’s win, Tiger’s Spanish surprise | Monday Finish
Welcome back to the Monday Finish, where we’re trying to set up a big-money match against Charles Barkley. Let’s get to the week!
FIRST OFF THE TEE
Big Tone and the Seesaw of Luck.
Tony Finau entered the final round at the 3M Open in third place, five shots behind leader Scott Piercy. When Piercy birdied No. 2 and No. 6 to get five shots clear of the field, Finau seemed destined for another near-miss.
Finau is famous for these; going into Sunday he was the owner of just two PGA Tour victories but 10 runner-up finishes. And while he has always gotten grief for his final-round shortcomings, a review of his Sundays suggests he never actually collapses near the lead. He tends to play pretty well, just not well enough. And so he kept getting beaten.
What did this look like? At the 2020 Waste Management, he led by two with two holes to play. Then Webb Simpson birdied 17 and 18 to force a playoff — and then he birdied the first playoff hole, too. A year later, Finau began 2021 with a runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, then had another in his next start at the Saudi International, and then played the round of the day on Sunday at the Genesis Invitational, shooting 64 to force a playoff with Max Homa — which he lost. Was Finau’s second win ever going to happen?
But of course it was. When he went out and got a win at the 2021 Northern Trust, the discourse around Finau’s career suddenly changed. Surely now the floodgates would open. He was too talented not to keep winning.
Convenient storylines are often too convenient, though. It took some time for Win No. 3. Entering this week, Finau had logged just three top-10s in 2022: One T4 and, you guessed it, two second-place finishes.
So if there was anyone who deserved to be the beneficiary of a leader’s meltdown, it was Finau. Enter Piercy, who entered a major mid-round tailspin, making bogeys at 8, 9, 11 and 13 before going full implosion mode with a triple at No. 14. Finau had been five shots behind. By the time he got to No. 18, he was four shots ahead of the field — and five clear of Piercy.
“I never was near the lead,” he said. “I was near the top of the leaderboard, but I was never within four or five shots. All of a sudden I was the one leading the golf tournament.”
He took advantage of the four-shot cushion with a shaky tee shot into the water at No. 18. But a three-shot win was more than enough. Finau’s Sunday was the first step in taking back what he’s owed.
Who won the week?
Brooke Henderson, national hero
This week’s undisputed champion: Brooke Henderson! The 24-year-old Canadian star gave away a two-shot lead with an early four-putt on Sunday at the Evian Championship. But then she bounced back with birdies at 14 and 15, setting up a walkoff birdie putt from just outside 10 feet at No. 18.
The win was her second major championship title and strengthened her grasp on the title of winningest Canadian golfer in history; Henderson has two wins this year, 12 in her LPGA career and now has another major trophy to go alongside hers from the 2016 KPMG.
Tony Finau, closer
How ’bout that back nine? It wasn’t just Piercy’s collapse that put Finau in the winner’s circle. It was birdie putts at 11, 14, 15 and 16 that added up to a final-round four-under 67, second-lowest round in the entire field.
“I mean, I made some really crucial putts when I really needed them,” he said. Sure did, Tone.
Richie Ramsay, emotional champion
If there’s one celebration worth watching from the weekend, it’s Scotland’s Richie Ramsay. The 39-year-old DP World Tour vet hadn’t won since 2015. Clearly he enjoyed this edition:
Karrie Webb, GOAT-beater
Over the years not many women have stared down an in-flow Annika Sorenstam and come out on top. But that’s what Aussie legend Karrie Webb did on Sunday, holding off Sorenstam by four strokes in the Senior LPGA Championship.
Darren Clarke, Open champ
In 2011, Darren Clarke won the Open Championship at Royal St. George’s. In 2022, he conquered the King’s Course at Gleneagles. It took a two-hour rain delay before Clarke claimed a one-shot victory over Padraig Harrington.
“As a kid I wanted to win the Open Championship,” he said post-round. “As a senior, this was always the one for me. This trophy will look good sitting beside the other one. I’m humbled and privileged to have my name on both alongside some legends of the game.”
Who else nearly won?
Sophia Schubert, almost-Cinderella
The 283rd-ranked player in the world, Sophia Schubert, nearly became a major champ but ultimately finishing one shot behind Henderson when her birdie putt at No. 18 went begging. She still felt like a winner, though, given her runner-up check for $586,262. That’s a nice supplement to her yearly earnings up to this point, which totaled $82,796.
“I want to cry tears of happiness,” she said.
James Hahn, playoff participant
The best round on Sunday at the 3M belong to James Hahn, who shot six-under 65. That was particularly consequential given his spot in the FedEx Cup; he entered the week at No. 133, outside the top 125 who make the playoffs. His T4 jumped him to No. 109, safely inside the bubble.
WHAT WE’RE HEARING
Tiger Woods’ return.
After missing the cut at the Open, Tiger Woods was opaque about his return to competitive golf. He acknowledged that to play his best golf he needs to play more — but the idea of actually playing more golf seemed, in that moment, completely overwhelming.
“I understand all that. I understand being more battle-hardened, but it’s hard just to walk and play 18 holes,” he said. “People have no idea what I have to go through and the hours of the work on the body, pre- and post-, each and every single day to do what I just did.
“That’s what people don’t understand. They don’t see. And then you think about playing more events on top of that — it’s hard enough just to do what I did.”
So what’s next for Woods? We got a couple hints this week. The first came via Lee Trevino, Woods’ playing partner on Monday of Open week. Here’s what he told Michael Breed on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio:
“You know, you’ve gotta take your hat off to this man,” he said. “If you watch him take a step, his ankle actually goes out. In other words, if he’s walking north his ankle will move east. And people don’t notice that, but I’m there watching this. And what happens to him, it’s no different, Michael, than a horse that’s a mile runner trying to go two miles. In other words, he’s okay the first few holes and then if fatigue starts setting in, he can’t push off the leg. … But for him to come back and play in those major championships, God bless him. God bless him. And he said he wasn’t gonna play again till the Father-Son. And he deserves that rest. He certainly does.”
The Father-Son refers to the PNC Championship, the family-oriented event in Orlando every December, where Woods and his son Charlie nearly triumphed last winter. That would mean a significant layoff; Woods would get the rest of July off plus August, September, October and November.
Woods’ caddie Joe LaCava provided some more specifics in an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show.
“I’m hoping that he’ll play, maybe in December at the Hero and the Father-Son, and then maybe the Genesis,” LaCava said. He added that he hoped Woods would play “three or four” tournaments before the 2023 Masters, a schedule that could include the Players Championship to help gear up for major season.
As for LaCava’s role in preparation?
“I won’t do much, I’ll do the same thing. I’ll say ‘Tiger, hey listen, if you’re starting to feel better in October or November, maybe I’ll come down for a couple of weeks [to Florida], we’ll hang out, don’t have to play every day, we don’t have to practice every day, I’ll be there and maybe give you a bit of motivation, we’ll do some playing practice here and there and get ready for the Hero and get ready for the following year of ’23 and get him ready in any respect that he needs.”
But if the preceding paragraphs give the impression of an infirmed Woods sitting around with his leg elevated, think again. That’s because Tiger and Charlie were photographed rolling into Son Quint, the newest course in Mallorca.
The fact that golf figures into the Woods family vacation — even if it comes cart included — seems like a good sign. Like many father-son combos before them, it’s likely Charlie helped drag his dad to the course, too.
Three things to watch this week.
1. Eddie Pepperell, Drop Zone star guest
I got the chance to interview Eddie Pepperell, the self-aware veteran of the DP World Tour. He’s happy to speak out about just about anything and has been musing as of late on LIV’s future and what that means for the PGA and DP World tours. We also got into Pepperell’s search for his own game, his resistance to practice rounds, his dreams for the future and much more.
You can watch a snippet here or listen to the full interview on Spotify, Apple or in the embed below.
2. LIV comes to New Jersey.
We’ll enter a particularly strange chapter of the LIV era this week as golf and politics collide further at Trump Bedminster. What will the turnout be? Will people tune in to watch the livestream? And will there be further announcements coming? Former President Trump‘s role in the proceedings will be worth monitoring, too, as will updates from Charles Barkley, Gary McCord and more.
3. LPGA in the Linksland
This is a sweet swing on the LPGA, with pros heading from the Evian to this week’s stop at true links test Dundonald for the Scottish Open. Then it’s off to Muirfield for the AIG Women’s Open. If you’re opting out of the LPGA vs. PGA Tour battle, dive all in on the ladies Scottish Swing.
We’ll see you next week!