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Late Posted Story on Finau’s Hall of Fame Victory
Friday, April 13, 2012 – Submitted by Carlton Reese
(This story was posted on the National Pro Golf Tour web page regarding a tournament Tony Finau won two weeks ago. )
ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. – One would have to look quite diligently to find a player more in need or more deserving of something great to happen to him than Tony Finau.
Competing for the first time since undergoing surgery for a stomach ulcer in February and the death of his mother back November, Finau orchestrated a beautiful final round amid some strong challengers in claiming a three-shot win over Michael Welch in the Hall of Fame Classic.Finau broke out of the gate strong with five birdies on the front nine and kept the ship steady on the back nine in hanging on for the win.
“This feels great; I don’t even know what to say,” said Finau, who won last year’s season-ending championship and the tour money title. “Coming down 18 I got a little choked up. This one’s definitely for mom. It was huge for me; all the sacrifices my parents made for me are starting to pay off.”Finau started Friday’s final round on the World Golf Village Slammer and Squire course with a one-shot lead over four other players, including Welch in the penultimate group. With birdies at 1, 3 and 4 Finau distanced himself from the players in his group, but up ahead Welch was applying some pressure.
Welch just missed a 10-foot eagle putt at No. 4 and followed up with a birdie at 6 and glorious 243-yard hybrid to two feet at the eighth that he converted for an eagle. With birdies at 10 and 11, Welch was just one shot back and in a war with Finau.
Welch admitted he didn’t know exactly where he stood at that moment, but he liked his chances. “I didn’t want to know (the other scores),” Welch said. “I was playing good golf and I was just going to try and continue to do it. Toward the end they let me know I needed a couple birdies. But those holes coming in aren’t easy.”
Welch held close until his second shot at the par-5 16th pushed into the trees, leading to a bogey.
“Until then I had complete control of where the ball was going,” Welch said. “I might have gotten a little quick because I knew I was in contention. At the beginning of the day I thought I had to shoot six or seven-under to win and I shot five-under. I would have thought that would have had a chance, but Tony’s playing really well out there.”
The day and the tournament belonged to Finau, who finished with rounds of 66-67-71-75—269 to take home the winner’s check of $20,000.
“I feel really comfortable out here,” Finau said. “With the success I had last year, it takes a lot of weight off my shoulders. These guys, I think they still know I’m the one to beat, so it feels great to do it again. It never gets old.
“I actually am a better chaser than the one being chased. I’m starting to prove to myself I can hold leads at a high level.”
After making the turn at 5-under-par Friday, Finau held just a one-stroke lead and could afford few mistakes down the stretch. His swing never let him down despite the long layoff heading into the tournament.
“Obviousy when you go on a run like that you want the momentum to still be there but you don’t want to all of a sudden kill it with a bad shot, so I played more conservative on the back.”Finau followed up his blistering front nine with a par at the 10th and birdie on the par-5 11th.
“I knew I needed a birdie on 11 just to maintain (the lead), because those guys were playing well to and the par 5s were playing in our favor.”
The death blow to the rest of the field came at the water-laden par-3 15th. Finau dropped one in to four feet for a birdie while Welch was struggling ahead of him.
“From there I wanted to ride it home. If you could make three pars coming home I didn’t think they’d catch me. I made pars on the last three holes and that sealed the deal.”