Tony Finau is finally a winner on the PGA Tour for the second time after he beat Cameron Smith in a playoff on the weather-delayed final day of The Northern Trust.
Finau has played 142 events since his breakthrough victory in Puerto Rico over five years ago and has notched 10 runner-up finishes, three of them coming in extra holes.
The Northern Trust
But he got over the line in New Jersey thanks to a superb back-nine charge and a helping hand from Smith, who carved his drive out-of-bounds on the first extra hole with Finau already in the middle of the fairway.
A solid six-iron to 20 feet put the outcome beyond any doubt with Smith still lining up his fifth shot from the fairway, and a two-putt par was plenty enough to win the first of this season’s three FedExCup playoff events.
The prospect of a Finau triumph looked unlikely midway through the final round at Liberty National as he trailed Jon Rahm by three shots having been just one under par through 11 holes.
But a birdie at 12 was followed by a stunning second to three feet at the long 13th which Finau rapped in for eagle, and he picked up a bonus shot on the next green when he holed from 30 feet for a birdie-two.
Despite Finau’s efforts, Rahm remained the firm favourite when he followed an outward 34 with birdies at the 12th and 13th to get to 20 under, but the Spaniard then tugged his drive at 15 into a fairway bunker and could not go at the green in two.
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The world No 1 clipped a wedge to six feet but allowed too much break with his par putt, and Rahm then bladed a pitch 30 feet past the flag at the risk-reward 16th, where Smith made his third birdie of the back-nine as he continued to fight back into contention after a poor start.
Smith was struggling with his driver from the start and pulled one 40 yards left of his target at the sixth and into water, a mistake which led to a double-bogey six.
But the young Aussie, who missed a 12-foot putt for a 59 on Saturday afternoon, started his revival with a birdie at the eighth and looked to have fixed his problems with the big stick as he kept pace with the charging Finau.
Finau got into the clubhouse on 20 under having holed a clutch six-footer to complete a nice up-and-down from the sand at 18 for a 65, and with Rahm out-of-sorts down the stretch, Smith emerged as the man most likely to deny the luckless American once again.
Smith pulled level with a nerveless seven-footer for birdie at the 17th, and he gave himself a chance to win in regulation only to leave his 25-foot putt short, tapping in for a 67 before heading back to the 18th tee with Finau.
Despite not having missed a fairway since the 10th, Smith then made one of his worst swings of the week and watched in horror as his ball sailed towards the unknown, and he also blocked his second effort into trouble to ease the stress on his rival.
More to follow …
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