03/27/2016

Although the Puerto Rico Open may have been lacking in star power, it certainly didn’t lack for drama.  With the top players in the world in Texas for the WGC-Dell Match Play, the door was open for players to boost their FedEx Cup standing and/or secure a Tour card as well.

In the case of Tony Finau, consider it done and done.

The 26-year-old from Utah bagged his first PGA Tour victory when he outlasted fellow American Steve Marino with a birdie on the third hole of sudden death.  Finau went birdie-birdie-birdie in the playoff but victory wasn’t secure until Marino’s birdie attempt from 4 ½ feet slid by on the right after his eagle putt from the fringe came up well short.

Finau had a chance to win in regulation but couldn’t convert his own birdie putt from 6 feet after Marino had made birdie to match him at 12-under 276.  Both Marino and Finau shot a 2-under 70 during the final round at a windy Coco Beach on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico.

Finau began the day one behind Ian Poulter, who was looking for his first win anywhere since 2012, but two quick birdies in the first five holes vaulted him into the lead.  He actually had a two-shot lead with another birdie at the 10th, but gave it right back at the 11th and dropped another shot on the 15th before missing his shot at victory on the 18th.

Meanwhile, Poulter could get nothing going during the final round and ended with 13 straight pars to finish alongside Mexico’s Rodolfo Cazaubon at 11-under, a shot out of the playoff.

If Finau wasn’t on your radar coming into the tournament, don’t worry, he wasn’t on many others’ either.  He had missed his last four cuts and five of the last six coming into the Arnold Palmer Invitational last week.  But he did finish T-10th at last year’s PGA Championship at Whistling Straits and was also top-15 at the U.S. Open.

Because the Puerto Rico Open was played opposite the WGC Match Play, Finau won’t get a full allotment of FedEx Cup points or a golden ticket to The Masters in two weeks, but the win is worth $540,000 and secures his tour card for the next two years.  That’s not a bad consolation prize.

Next week the tour heads to Humble, Texas (don’t pronounce the ‘H’) for the Shell Houston Open.  It will be players’ last chance to earn an invite to Augusta National the following week.