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Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014

Dick Harmon: Utahn Tony Finau entering homestretch to earn PGA Tour card

By Dick Harmon, Deseret News

Published: Fri, July 25 7:47 p.m. MDT

 Tony Finau, from Lehi, talks to media after competing in the Web.com Tour Utah Championship at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

Tony Finau, from Lehi, talks to media after competing in the Web.com Tour Utah Championship at Willow Creek Country Club in Sandy on Thursday, July 10, 2014.

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Utahn Tony Finau is taking a week off before he hits the homestretch on the Web.com Tour and attempts to earn his PGA Tour ticket by staying in the top 25 on the money list at the end of the season.

It’s a well-deserved break.

I caught up with Finau on Friday through a phone call. He said he’d been running with his tank on fumes and needed a break after playing 16 events on that tour.

“I just needed to take some time off,” Finau said. “I needed to rest a sore back, get re-energized and prepare myself for the homestretch.”

Finau will likely become Utah’s next professional golfer to make the PGA Tour. He has the game, the skills and the mind to make it work once he gets there, just like Farmington’s Daniel Summerhays, who has earned more than $1 million on the tour this year.

Finau impressed at the Utah Championship two weeks ago when he came within striking distance atop the leaderboard before a double bogey took him out of the race for the top check in the final round.

The experience was a double-edged sword. He loved playing before friends, family and supporters and it motivated him to play his best, but hosting people and finding a lot of distractions from the mountains where he grew up exhausted him at the end. He wound up missing the cut in Boise and is missing this week’s event in Overland Park, Kansas.

“I was tired and I needed this time off with my family,” he said.

Finau has the perfect mindset to compete on the PGA Tour. He’s a patient player who doesn’t get rattled after a bad hole or tournament. He plays even-keeled all the time and he’s proved his talent not only nationally but inside state boundaries as a Utah State Amateur champion and multiple winner of the Provo Open.

“I try to have the same even-keel approach on the course as I do in life,” he said. “In golf, maintaining the same approach, whether I’m hitting a good or bad shot, winning or losing, is part of the experience I’ve gained as a professional.”

Finau has three top 10 finishes on the Web.com Tour this year, including a second-round course record at the United Leasing Classic in Newburgh, Indiana, when he began with an ace and an eagle to card a 6-under 64.

This week Finau ranks No. 22 on the Web.com money list after being 18th a week ago. He has earned just over $130,125. Those who must overtake him have a little work to do. The No. 23 player is Kyle Reifers ($119,736), followed by Matt Weibert ($113,772) at No. 24 and Sebastian Cappelen ($110,460) at No. 25.

The top 25 players on that list will be invited to the PGA Tour in 2015, so keeping that status is extremely important.

“I think I’m in great shape,” said Finau of his standing. “I have confidence in how my game is going, I like where I’m at, and I believe once I get back out there, I’ll improve my ranking. I’ve worked hard to get where I’m at right now and it's paying off for me.”

Finau said he had to take a break sometime and this was the right time to catch his breath.

“It’s taken a lot of energy to compete like I have,” Finau said. The stop in Utah at Willow Creek Country Club was as nervous as he’s been on the tour this year.

Normally, it is just Finau and his caddy traveling around, eating and staying in hotels, rushing to car rentals and airports. It completely changed when he came home for that local event.

Finau said he’ll head down the homestretch doing nothing different. “Every time I tee it up, I have a clear mind and I’m not thinking about a score or a win, I just let the results speak for themselves. When you are playing well, you don’t try and force anything. I know going down the stretch pressure is building, people will be on the bubble on that money list, but I feel really good with my game.”

Finau, always a long hitter off the tee, averages just over 300 yards with his driver. His scoring average is 69.65.

“I know I can get it done," he said. "Nothing is more important that maintaining confidence and getting the job done.”

Dick Harmon, Deseret News sports columnist, can be found on Twitter as Harmonwrites and can be contacted at dharmon@desnews.com.

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