Tony Finau may have had a familiar face on his bag at the 3M Open, but it wasn’t his longtime caddie.
Finau split with Greg Bodine, his caddie since his rookie PGA Tour season in 2014-15, and is relying on his swing instructor, former PGA Tour player Boyd Summerhays as a one-week fill-in while searching for a full-time replacement. Finau may want to consider extending the double duty for his coach as Finau posted an opening-round 6-under 65 at TPC Twin Cities to share the lead with Ryan Moore, Nick Watney and Xinjun Zhang.
“It’s good to have him out,” Finau said of Summerhays. “I’ve had him in the past carry my bag and it’s nice to have him see things up close, I think, inside the ropes. Just with everything going on, you can’t really watch, so the best way I think for a coach to see it is maybe inside the ropes, so a little change this week.”
Finau, 30, is ranked No. 17 in the Official World Golf Ranking and has played on the last U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup teams, but hasn’t won since the 2016 Puerto Rico Open. Earlier this season, he held a two-stroke lead with two holes to play at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, but lost to Webb Simpson in a playoff. Last week, he was the 36-hole leader at the Memorial, but stumbled on the weekend, including a 78 on Sunday to finish T-8.
Sometimes, a player needs to shake things up.
Of the breakup with Bodine, Finau said, “On a personal level I love the guy and on a business level I felt it was time for a change in my situation and something just different.”
Finau fired on all cylinders Thursday, hitting 17 of 18 greens in regulation, tying his career-most in that category – the sixth time he’s done so. He birdied three of the first four holes on his second nine, including driller a right-to-left bending 22-foot birdie putt at the third hole. He made his lone bogey at the seventh hole when his approach sailed long, but he bounced back at the next hole by knocking his tee shot at the 195-yard par 3 to 13 feet and canned his seventh birdie of the day. It marked Finau’s sixth straight sub-70 opening round.
Despite having a pop-gun swing, Finau consistently has been one of the game’s longest hitters and inspired by the distance gains by Bryson DeChambeau, who leads the Tour in average driving distance, he has begun chasing extra yards off the tee. As Finau recounted, he was wrapping up his practice round on the ninth green at the RBC Heritage last month when his concentration was broken.
“All I could hear was this commotion on the driving range. Of course, I look over and nobody’s hitting golf balls except Bryson. They’re videoing him and watching him send drives over the fence and he’s flying it no problem,” Finau said. “There’s only been a couple of times on the driving range on the PGA Tour, that guys that I’ve seen literally stop and watch one guy hit and that happened at Harbour Town.”
Speaking last week at the Memorial, Finau said, “For me I was like, well, let me try this thing out, reach back and see if I can hit it as straight. I don’t think I’m hitting it quite as straight as him, but it’s worked out so far.”
Finau’s game is a good fit for TPC Twin Cities, where birdies in bunches are required. Two weeks ago, Finau broke his course record at Victory Ranch Golf Club in Park City, Utah. He was 14-under par through 16. His career-low round is 58 and he wanted one more birdie for 57, but he bogeyed the 17th and settled for 59.
“That would have been pretty dang special,” Finau said.
So, too, would be getting back into the winner’s circle this week at the 3M Open.