Weekly Recap: Fi-nau We're Talking

Weekly Recap: Fi-nau We're Talking

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

You could make the argument that Tony Finau's win at the Mexico Open on Sunday doesn't mean all that much because it came in the weakest field of the PGA Tour season. But when that weak field included world No. 1 Jon Rahm, and Finau had to play the final round in the same group as the imposing Spaniard and still won, that argument doesn't hold much credibility.

Finau carried a two-stroke lead over the reigning Masters champion into Sunday, birdied three of his first seven holes and was never headed in a relatively easily three-shot win at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Course.

It was the second win of the season for Finau, joining Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa as the only multiple winners in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season. He has won five of his past 41 starts and moved to No. 11 in the world rankings, just off his best of ninth.

This was a reversal of last year's duel in Mexico, where Rahm won by a stroke over Finau and upstart Brandon Wu, who was right there once again with a solo third.

Last year, Finau played great tee-to-green but ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting. This year, he played great yet again – and ranked eighth in the field on the greens.

"I played great golf all week. That's something that I wanted to do," Finau said. "Every day I was striking the golf ball really nicely, but the biggest

You could make the argument that Tony Finau's win at the Mexico Open on Sunday doesn't mean all that much because it came in the weakest field of the PGA Tour season. But when that weak field included world No. 1 Jon Rahm, and Finau had to play the final round in the same group as the imposing Spaniard and still won, that argument doesn't hold much credibility.

Finau carried a two-stroke lead over the reigning Masters champion into Sunday, birdied three of his first seven holes and was never headed in a relatively easily three-shot win at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Course.

It was the second win of the season for Finau, joining Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa as the only multiple winners in the 2022-23 PGA Tour season. He has won five of his past 41 starts and moved to No. 11 in the world rankings, just off his best of ninth.

This was a reversal of last year's duel in Mexico, where Rahm won by a stroke over Finau and upstart Brandon Wu, who was right there once again with a solo third.

Last year, Finau played great tee-to-green but ranked 60th in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting. This year, he played great yet again – and ranked eighth in the field on the greens.

"I played great golf all week. That's something that I wanted to do," Finau said. "Every day I was striking the golf ball really nicely, but the biggest thing is I was able to convert the birdie putts that I really needed to and also some of the par saves that were momentum swingers for me."

After winning the Houston Open in his final Tour start of the fall, Finau continued to play decently but not great. He had made all 10 of his cuts in 2023 coming in. While there were only two top-10s and nothing better than a tie for seventh at the year-opening Sentry Tournament of Champions, he had eight top-25s. And he was ranked first overall on Tour in the all-important Strokes Gained: Approach category.

In other words, he was close.

Putting hadn't been the issue, and that can be a game-changer for Finau's career. After improving a great deal on the greens last year, finishing the season ranked 85th in SG: Putting, this season he's 25th. 

To be first in Approach and 25th in Putting, plus fourth in Tee-to-Green, there's not much weakness in that game. Finau is ranked only 60th in driving distance, which was a surprise to see, but it obviously hasn't hurt him much. And he can still put his foot on the gas when he needs to.

Finau was asked whether this win compares to any of his previous five. He cited the 2022 Rocket Mortgage Classic.

"I played very clean throughout every day, I didn't make a bogey today, I think I only made one bogey the first three days, one bogey each day," he said. "It was just a very -- I just played really clean all week, I played really solid. As far as ranking it against some of my best performances, it's pretty much right at the top, yeah. I was able to make the putts that I needed to."

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Jon Rahm
Rahm can't win 'em all, it only seems that way. In 11 starts in 2023, he has four wins, a runner-up, a third and another top-10. Rahm solidified his position as world No. 1 and will maintain it at least through next week – both he and No. 2 Scottie Scheffler are skipping the Wells Fargo Championship and No. 3 Rory McIlroy cannot overtake him even with a win.

Brandon Wu
The 26-year-old California native and Stanford alum doesn't just play well at the Mexico Open, where he was co-runner-up last year and third this time. Earlier this season, he was also co-second at Pebble Beach and top-20 at The PLAYERS. In other words, he's emerging. Wu is up to a career-high 82nd in the world rankings and has about a month to crack the top-60 to secure a berth in the U.S. Open without having to qualify.

Akshay Bhatia
Bhatia was solo fourth, and now has soared from the 400s in the world rankings at the start of the year to 196th. He finished fifth in the field in SG: Approach and sixth in Putting. Even though it was a very weak field, we all have to take notice of the rising 21-year-old. Bhatia had been granted a sponsor invite into this week's Wells Fargo, but now he can save it because the top-10 got him in.

Emiliano Grillo
The Argentine was a top draw in Mexico, and he delivered with a tie for fifth. He's been having a good year and has been great recently – with a tie for seventh at the RBC Heritage in his prior start. Putting is still a big concern – he's ranked 146th on the season – but at Vidanta he ranked ninth in the field.

Eric Cole
After bursting on the scene with a runner-up at the Honda, Cole struggled. He missed three of his next five cuts with nothing inside the top-25. At Mexico, he tied for fifth. It was a great week that moved him into the top-50 in the FedExCup point standings. But in light of the field, we should probably wait for a similar field to target Cole again.

Austin Smotherman
Tying for fifth, this was Smotherman's best career finish on Tour – by far. He didn't even have a top-25 this season. So while this was a huge moment for him, it does little to alter his fantasy relevance.

Cameron Champ
Champ tied for eighth. It was only his third made cut in 14 starts all season. So there's little reason to expect this is the start of a turnaround. The weak field combined with course characteristics – super long and super wide – likely make this a rare occurrence for Champ.

Ben Taylor
The 30-year-old Englishman had missed four straight cuts, so he really needed a good week. Instead, he got a great one. Taylor tied for eighth -- his fourth top-10 of the season. He's a decent player, and this latest result moved him to the edge of the top-100 in the world at No. 101.

Patrick Rodgers
With a tie for 10th, Rodgers has three excellent results in a row after his solo fifth at the Valero and T19 at the RBC Heritage. He's up to 103rd in the world rankings.

Alejandro Tosti
The 26-year-old Argentine had been tearing up the Korn Ferry Tour with two top-10s and two top-25s in his previous four starts there. This was only his second career PGA Tour start, and he kept his surge going with a tie for 10th. That means, Tosti, a University of Florida alum, got himself into the Wells Fargo with its huge designated purse. He'd need a solo sixth to get Special Temporary Membership to the Tour.

Jimmy Walker
The 44-year-old Walker continues to turn back time. Following top-25s at the Valero and RBC Heritage, he added another with a tie for 15th at Vidanta. That moves him to 113th in the point standings.

Kevin Roy
Roy has a great Approach game but still had trouble making cuts. It's a bit baffling. Yet at Mexico, he tied for 18th, his best showing of the year.

Wyndham Clark
Clark recovered nicely after an opening 73 to finish tied for 24th. But that's a very disappointing week for one of the top five guys in the field.

Nicolai Hojgaard
The Dane tied for 33rd, after tying for 28th at the Valero. Hojgaard was also second at the opposite-field event in the Dominican. He now has Special Temporary Membership, but those results indicate he might not be ready to make any sort of impact on the PGA Tour.

Geoff Ogilvy
The 45-year-old had largely been absent from the PGA Tour for about five years but is making a renewed effort to play more now. This was his fifth stroke-play start and he's made four cuts, including this T39. No fantasy relevance, just a nice story.

Ben Martin
Martin was one of the better guys in the field and looked that way for two rounds with a 68-66. But a 73-71 left him a disappointing T46.

Maverick McNealy
McNealy continues to struggle. After a top-10 at the Sony way back in January, he doesn't have a top-30 since, adding in this tie for 60th. McNealy missed time in February with a shoulder injury, and it's fair to wonder whether it's still an issue, even though he's missed only one of four stroke-play cuts since returning.

MISSED CUTS

Luke List, Aaron Rai, Alex Noren, Matt Wallace and Alex Smalley were notable trunk-slams. Golf is deep enough where anyone can beat anyone else in a given week, but these guys had to head home to the States shaking their heads. Noren fell out of the top-50 in the world rankings, to No. 52.

KORN FERRY TOUR

Thirty-three-year-old Ben Kohles lost his PGA Tour card after last year. He has made just 24 cuts in 54 career starts. But in the past month he's won twice on the Korn Ferry Tour, including Sunday at HomeTown Lenders Championship in Alabama. One more win and Kohles would earn an immediate promotion back to the PGA Tour. Even if he doesn't, he'll be back next season as a KF grad.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Len Hochberg
Len Hochberg has covered golf for RotoWire since 2013. A veteran sports journalist, he was an editor and reporter at The Washington Post for many years. He was named 2020 "DFS Writer of the Year" by the FSWA and was nominated for the same award in 2019.
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