Conversations with Champions: Tony Finau possessed a ‘little bit of don’t screw it up’ mindset to win the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open

By Fly Pin High |
November 14, 2022

“Conversations With Champions presented by Sentry” is a weekly program from Golfweek. This week: Tony Finau , winner of the 2022 Cadence Houston Open.

He was the last golfer in history to win back-toback on the PGA Tour. Thanks to his dominant win at the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open, he can do it again .

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Finau won Memorial Park Golf Course by four shots with scores of 65-62,68-69 and 69. Finau now has three wins from his last seven starts, and four from his last thirty.

He admitted that despite matching the 54-hole tournament record and being four shots ahead on Saturday night, things still felt a little rough Sunday morning.

He said, “I think that I said it on Golf Channel right after I finished. When I teed off this morn I felt a bit off, honestly.” It’s hard to sleep on the lead. It was hard to sleep on the lead.

“I was able make big putts on 8 & 9, just to open this tournament up. I was very pleased with my overall performance and my putting.

This is what Finau had to say after winning the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open.

Q. The 3M Open win was memorable, with all of your family present. But what does it mean for you to have your wife and son join you at this event?

TF “I believe they see the hours and are very supportive. They have always been there for me. My son is my greatest fan. He is also my biggest critic. He’ll point out any double bogeys or other errors I make. It doesn’t matter whether it’s 65 or 70. He is my biggest fan and my biggest critic. It’s incredible to have him around. My wife, of course. She’s been supportive of me and my career ever since we were married. They are very important in my life. But, they’re even more special for being there this week to support me.

Q. Was she there to see your family?

TF They arrived just in time for the back nine. Evidently, she was happy about today. Let me tell you, she felt much better than I did.

Q: While you didn’t do a lot on the back nine it was clear that you did not have to do a lot. Did you mean to tell people not to do stupid things going in?

TF “It is a place that I have never been before. I have never been in the lead by eight shots on Tour. It’s a fascinating mindset. You might add a little bit of “don’t screw up” or “if we hit some great shots, we can extend our lead”. I’ll admit that I was a bit impatient with 14 and 15. We waited on the group in front of me and it felt like we were there for forever. It felt like the tournament was never going to end. We were not going to reach 17 or 18. I tried to be patient as possible. The 15-foot miss on the short putt was because I didn’t have the patience to put in the necessary time. This was an amazing week. This was my first ever win in a golf tournament. Although I don’t know if this has been done in my career at Rocket Mortgage, I can say that I have played well for four consecutive days and that it is what it all boils down to. It’s a great feeling to see all your hard work starting to pay off.

Q. You had thoughts today that you didn’t have five years ago.

TF: “No question. When I say that I don’t think I have it in me, it’s because sometimes, you don’t even know what the day will bring. Those emotions are something you have to fight all day. I was able fight them and execute when needed. I have the confidence to win, and that I displayed today was evident.”

Tony Finau thanks the crowd after he made a birdie on the 18th hole of the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open. (Photo: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

Q. How is it different from the other two in the summer?

TF “Everyone is unique in their own way. This fall, I took quite a lot of time off. I wanted to be close to my family, and I knew that after the Presidents Cup I would shut it down until last Wednesday in Mexico. That was what I had committed to, but I picked the clubs up again after a break. It was a great feeling to have played in so many tournaments. This is my ninth season. In the last few weeks, I felt that excitement and a real sense of accomplishment to compete. Although I was disappointed to miss the cut last week I was eager to get out there and play again. I feel blessed. I can play in any PGA Tour tournament I like. My play obviously has a lot to it, but I feel extremely blessed. It was a week I will never forget.

Q. Considering what you just said about things being a bit off today, how do you combat that?

TF “Just try to think positive thoughts as much as possible. After a brief warmup, I did a bit more. I had to use the bathroom during my warmup so I wasn’t able to hit as many balls. However, I knew that I was playing well, and I believed I had it at end of the day. If I keep hitting good shots, I will be very difficult to catch. I found my calmness in the middle of the nine and hit some fairways. I made some birdies and was then on my own.

Q: You were the leader in driving accuracy and greens hits. How did you feel about your ball control for weeks?

TF “Yeah! Probably the best driving week of my career. At least that’s what I felt. Yesterday was the first time I’ve ever hit all 13 fairways. This was the first time I have done it in my entire career. It’s a deadly combination when you consider that this week was my best putting week. Combining these two can result in a win that is almost as big as mine. It was very encouraging as I moved forward in the season.

Tony Finau hit a tee shot at the tenth green during the final round in the 2022 Cadence Bank Houston Open. (Photo: Erik Williams-USA TODAY Sports)

Q: Last year, you were 40th in driving distance. Do you see this as a continuing theme of dialing back to allow more control?

TF “I have never seen anything as dialing back. It’s just more accuracy. I have become a very precise and precise player. When I feel the need, I have plenty of fuel. There are a few times when I can let my guard down a bit. For example, on 16 today, there was a hazard to the right at 295. I give it a little more to make sure that if I push the ball in that water, it doesn’t hit the water. It’s an advantage to have speed. It’s a luxury that I have had since childhood. It’s fun to hit the fairway, even though I am not as precise off the tee as I used to be. Growing up, I didn’t hit many fairways. Although I was able to hit it quite far, the occasional duck hook or slice would be just around the corner. It’s nice to have that kind of control over the driver as I did this week.

Q: You have won three of your seven previous starts. Is this the highest number of games that have clicked in your career?

TF “This is the most all-important part of my game that has been clicking. But I would also say that I have played a lot good golf for a while. Although I didn’t win many, I did manage to put together a game. As I mentioned, I tried to become more precise with my experience. I have speed and can drive the fairway. I also worked hard to improve my wedge game and putter. Although I feel like I have been a solid player for a while, it is exciting to see that I am improving. Remember why you’re where you are. I believe I don’t stray too far from the DNA of my game. I view the game as a whole and am able to see all the details.

Q. In a similar vein: Mentally, do you feel this is the best feeling you’ve ever felt?

TF “I have always felt mentally strong. Sometimes, I feel like my mental attitude and game can match up with my physical game. Although I have been a decent player and showed some brilliance, it took a lot of mental effort to become consistent and great. I feel that my physical game matches up with my mental. I have always been tough and I have always been mentally strong. It’s a great combination, and I’m beginning to see it with myself.

Q. Tony, you held that trophy up quite often getting a lot pictures taken. You are a great champion. But could you feel the support from the crowd all day?

TF “It felt overwhelming in my favor. Tony chants a lot. I heard many chants. It’s quite humble. Sometimes I find it a bit annoying [sic] when I’m out there playing. I can’t really open up and say hello to everyone because I try to be as present as possible. It is humbling to know that I have so many fans, especially in H-town. It was special to have them cheer for me.

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