Weekly Recap: Take a Bow, Finau

Weekly Recap: Take a Bow, Finau

This article is part of our Weekly Recap series.

There's no such thing as an easy win in golf -- or in any sport, for that matter. But they don't come much easier than the Houston Open did for Tony Finau.

Finau took control with an 8-under 62 on Friday and was never challenged, rolling to a four-stroke win over unheralded Tyson Alexander. The winning score of 16-under-par was easily the best in the three years the tournament has been contested at Memorial Park Golf Course -- and it came with Finau playing a 3-over back nine as he cakewalked home.

There were some top golfers in the field -- notably world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler -- but a big reason things were so stress-free for Finau on Sunday was the less-than-fearsome collection of golfers pursuing him. Besides Alexander, who was ranked 320th in the world entering the week, the next guys on the final leaderboard were Ben Taylor (No. 236), Trey Mullinax (No. 120), Alex Smalley (No. 132), Alex Noren (No. 50), Adam Hadwin (No. 83) and Aaron Rai (No. 156).

Not exactly the '27 Yankees.

The point is not to minimize Finau's accomplishment, because what he did the past few months is spectacular. This was his third win in his past seven PGA Tour starts and his fourth going back a little over a year to the 2021 Northern Trust.

Who else won four times over the past 15 or so months? Scheffler won four of six earlier this year, culminating with the Masters and

There's no such thing as an easy win in golf -- or in any sport, for that matter. But they don't come much easier than the Houston Open did for Tony Finau.

Finau took control with an 8-under 62 on Friday and was never challenged, rolling to a four-stroke win over unheralded Tyson Alexander. The winning score of 16-under-par was easily the best in the three years the tournament has been contested at Memorial Park Golf Course -- and it came with Finau playing a 3-over back nine as he cakewalked home.

There were some top golfers in the field -- notably world No. 2 Scottie Scheffler -- but a big reason things were so stress-free for Finau on Sunday was the less-than-fearsome collection of golfers pursuing him. Besides Alexander, who was ranked 320th in the world entering the week, the next guys on the final leaderboard were Ben Taylor (No. 236), Trey Mullinax (No. 120), Alex Smalley (No. 132), Alex Noren (No. 50), Adam Hadwin (No. 83) and Aaron Rai (No. 156).

Not exactly the '27 Yankees.

The point is not to minimize Finau's accomplishment, because what he did the past few months is spectacular. This was his third win in his past seven PGA Tour starts and his fourth going back a little over a year to the 2021 Northern Trust.

Who else won four times over the past 15 or so months? Scheffler won four of six earlier this year, culminating with the Masters and the No. 1 ranking in the world. Across 2021 and 2022, Max Homa and Sam Burns have also won four, twice in each year.

This is quite a turn of events for Finau, who notably and almost embarrassingly was in a five-year rut after winning the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, an alternate-field event that counts as an official PGA Tour win but not something a world-class golfer really wants to one day tell his grandchildren about.

A playoff win and three victories in seven starts sounds so much better.

Still, Finau told reporters in Houston that that barren five-year period "was the most important stretch of my PGA Tour career. I continued to believe, I didn't give up on myself, I continued to work hard on my body and on my game and I just knew that -- I was always hopeful that I could go on special runs, and I think we're starting to see that now. I'm starting to put together a full-package game, which is really exciting for me."

Finau has always been among the best ball strikers and, like so many of them, had been held back by his putting. But after making some advances last season, Finau is really starting to ramp up on the greens. He ranked second in the Houston field in Strokes Gained: Putting.

With the rest of his game, Finau doesn't have to be that good every week, just mediocre instead of horrible. Sounds so easy, doesn't it?

Finau inched up to No. 12 in the world rankings. That's still shy of his best of ninth, which was reached after winning the 2021 Northern Trust.

But he is ahead of some pretty big names, among them Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Homa and Burns. And really, the way Finau is playing right now, he's if effect a top-10 guy, maybe even top-five.

If he keeps playing like this, he'll get there soon enough, and then will have more good stuff to one day impress his grandchildren.

MONDAY BACKSPIN

Tyson Alexander
There wasn't a whole lot to indicate that Alexander was primed for such a finish. In his first four starts this season, he had missed two cuts, a T44 and a T64. It speaks to the depth of the Tour that someone can come out of nowhere one week and all but make his entire season, as Alexander likely did. Two months ago, he was playing on the Korn Ferry Tour and, while he won twice there over the past two years, don't get too excited too soon.

Ben Taylor
A recent Korn Ferry Tour graduate like Alexander, the 30-year-old Englishman finished solo third. We thought Taylor was a good DraftKings play at $6500, but never did we envision a podium spot, just a made cut and hopefully more. Also like Alexander, Taylor has won on the KF Tour. But his win was back in 2018, which tells you how long the struggle had been for Taylor.

Trey Mullinax
At age 30, Mullinax might really be turning a corner in his career. He finished in a three-way tie for fourth, adding to a string of high finishes over the past few months. Mullinax won the Barbasol in July, then finished fifth and 12th at the first two playoff events. He's now up to a career-best 101st in the world rankings.

Alex Smalley
Smalley had a terrific rookie season on Tour, finishing 71st in the point standings to easily keep his card, and now is delivering in 2022-23. He had a sneaky good nine top-25s last season, including a runner-up in the Dominican Republic. His tie for fourth in Houston was his second-best showing on Tour and already his third top-25 this fall. Smalley ranked 159th in Strokes Gained: Putting last season and still piled up all those top-25s. This season in the early going, he's ranked 26th. So we could be seeing the start of a player moving to the next level.

Alex Noren
Noren rounds out the trio of golfers tied for fourth. It was an important result for the veteran Swede, who moved from 50th to 45th in the rankings, likely locking up a spot in the all-important top-50 in the end-of-year rankings. That would land Noren back in the Masters come April.

Adam Hadwin
Hadwin doesn't miss many cuts, which is great for your DFS lineup. His price is usually not super high, but also not super low, so just making the cut usually isn't enough to be a part of your lineup. Hadwin tied for seventh this week, which certainly covers his $8,300 price tag on DraftKings. This was the Canadian's ninth straight made cut, and he's missed only four in all of 2022.

Scottie Scheffler
It was another decent week for Scheffler, who finished in a seven-way tie for ninth. He needed a win to regain the top spot in the rankings from Rory McIlroy. Scheffler will next tee it up at the Hero World Challenge in early December.

Jason Day
Day shot four rounds in the 60s to tie for 16th place and, suddenly, he has a good stretch going. The former world No. 1 had plummeted outside the top-160 OWGR, but over the past four tournaments has finished T8-T11-T21 and now T16 and will move to about 110th in Monday's new rankings. This is a really hard situation to gauge. On one hand, we know how good Day can be when he's at this best. But it's been years since we've seen that. And then there's his chronic back woes, which could resurface at any time. We haven't seen Day string together so many good results in years. We can't ignore him. We'll see him this coming week at the RSM Classic.
 
Justin Suh
A tie for 47th normally isn't something to get too excited about. But for Suh, it constitutes a third straight made cut, which followed three missed cuts to start the season. Baby steps, but you have to start somewhere.

Russell Henley
One week after winning at Mayakoba, Henley missed the cut. Not a surprise, even though he's a good fit for Memorial Park and finished in the top-10 there last year. 

Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama
Both players withdrew. Burns dropped out Friday after shooting an opening-round 7-over. No reason was given, so presumably there was no injury, just getting out of Dodge before the official missed cut. We wrote in last week's DraftKings Picks and Strategy article that Burns was finally finding some consistency. We apparently spoke too soon. Matsuyama, on the other hand, made the cut, then withdrew Saturday citing a neck injury. He is in the field for the Hero World Challenge in three weeks, so we'll have to see what develops there.

DP World Tour

A clearly emotional Tommy Fleetwood won for the first time in three years at the Nedbank Golf Challenge in South Africa. It also counts as a title defense, as the 2020 and 2021 tournaments were pandemic-induced cancellations. Fleetwood will now head to Dubai for this week's DP World Tour Championship as the world's No. 23-ranked golfer, and we'll also see him next month at Tiger Woods' Hero World Challenge. New Zealander Ryan Fox, who has soared in the rankings this year, finished a shot back and will also move into the top 25. This tournament was a 66-man, no-cut event. Thomas Detry, who has been playing well on the PGA Tour, tied for 13th, and that was with a big Sunday fade.

Asian Tour

Andy Ogletree, who had trouble gaining traction on the PGA Tour, then left for LIV Golf, only to be cast aside as bigger names joined the upstart league, won the Asian Tour event in Egypt by four strokes over Bernd Wiesberger. The Georgia Tech alum, who was the 2019 U.S. Amateur champion, remains suspended by the PGA Tour, so presumably he will continue on the Asian Tour for now. The win moves Ogletree inside the top 1,000 in the world rankings.

Japan Tour

A lot of familiar names made news this week. A now 31-year-old Ryo Ishikawa won for the first time in three years in a playoff over Rikuya Hoshino. It was the one-time phenom's 18th career win on the Japan Tour. Nine of them came before he turned 20 and the first one came when he was 15 years old. This win will move Ishikawa back inside the top 300 in the world rankings.

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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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