Tony Finau selected as final captain's pick to complete US Ryder Cup team
WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Pa. – U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Jim Furyk named his 12th and final player on Monday, opting for long-hitting Tony Finau to round out the team that will face Europe in the 42nd Ryder Cup at Le Golf National outside Paris Sept. 28-30.
In Finau, who turns 29 on Sept. 14, Furyk added a powerful young player who has been in strong form during the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup Playoffs. Finau has 11 top-10 finishes this season, most on the PGA Tour.
“I’ve still got goosebumps,” Finau said after tying for eighth at the BMW Championship and receiving a phone call from the U.S. Captain. “I’m just ecstatic. I don’t know if I can really put it into words. All the emotions that come with accomplishing something like that … man, it’s a dream come true for me. I got the goosebumps when he told me, and I’m excited to add my skills and talent to the team – a team that’s stacked already. \
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“Hopefully I bring something to the team that can help us bring that Cup back.”
Finau will be competing in his first Ryder Cup, becoming the third rookie on the U.S. team, joining Justin Thomas, the 2017 PGA champion, and Bryson DeChambeau.
"What an unbelievable body of work this year," Furyk said of Finau. "All the top-10 finishes, the play in the big championships and the majors, and then the current form, with a second, a fourth and an eighth (in the FedEx Cup Playoffs). He checked a lot of boxes and made it impossible not to pick him. "I'm excited to add him to the team. Tony played well in big moments this year."
Finau had a chance to show off his talents up close for the captain at last month’s 100th PGA Championship at Bellerive Country Club in St. Louis. Playing in a group with Furyk over the championship’s opening two rounds, Finau went out and made 10 birdies in Round 2, tying a PGA Championship record, shooting 66. Furyk had known about Finau’s prodigious length –Finau ranks third on the PGA Tour in driving distance, at 316.3 yards – but the captain walked away having watched a player who has plenty of game beyond his length.
At one point, Finau birdied seven of eight holes, bouncing back from a triple-bogey with birdies on his next two holes.
“He’s got a great head on his shoulders,” Furyk said.
Finau, who recorded top-10 finishes in the first three majors of the season, finished 15th in the final U.S. Ryder Cup points table. Six days earlier in Philadelphia, Furyk made his first three captain’s picks, selecting DeChambeau, a two-time winner in the FedEx Cup Playoffs; Phil Mickelson (who will compete in his record 12th Ryder Cup); and Tiger Woods, who has rebounded from four back surgeries and will play for the U.S. team for the first time since 2014. Those three had finished ninth, 10th and 11th, respectively, in points.
They join eight players who made the team via points on Aug. 12: 2018 U.S. Open and PGA champion Brooks Koepka; Johnson; Thomas; 2018 Masters champion Patrick Reed; Bubba Watson; Jordan Spieth; Rickie Fowler; and Webb Simpson.
Finau is one of seven players on the U.S. team that is in his 20s. At Le Golf National, the U.S. will be trying to win an “away” Ryder Cup for the first time in 25 years. The U.S. last won at The Belfry, in England, in 1993, with current U.S. assistant captain Davis Love III holing the winning putt.
Finau was one of a handful of U.S. players who joined Furyk on a trip to Le Golf National in July, prior to the Open Championship. He relishes the opportunity to be part of a team.
“I grew up playing team sports, and I know what it’s like to be on a team,” he said. “I also played on two Junior Ryder Cup teams. I’m a great team player – what I mean by that, there won’t be any locker room noise with me. I can play with anyone. I feel that my personality is just that way. I can bring the best out of different guys playing with them … I’m pretty easy to play with. And I’m playing some good golf, some world class golf.”
Furyk had some options with his final pick. Xander Schauffele, another promising young player, was 12th in Ryder Cup points and played well in the final event before Furyk made his decision, tying for third at the BMW. He was one of several players who received calls from the captain Monday afternoon thanking them for their efforts to make this year’s team.
For Finau, having the opportunity to compete on a world stage in Paris in the 42nd Ryder Cup continues an improbable tale of success. He turned pro out of high school at age 17 and played several years on the hardscrabble mini-tours before he earned his card on the Web.com Tour for 2014. Finau was raised in a tough section of Salt Lake City known as Rose Park. As a youth, he and his younger brother, Gipper, would hit thousands of balls off sheets of carpet into a nylon net in the basement of their house. Their father would take them to practice their short games at the local muni, and Tony didn’t hit his first driver until he was 9 years old. Finau’s mother, Ravena, who would drive Tony to junior tournaments, was killed in an auto accident in 2011. On Monday, when he got his Ryder Cup call, one of the first things Tony wanted to do was to call his father, Kelepi.
“I am definitely not shy to smell the roses when I can, and especially at this time, it’s hard not to look back at where I came from and the humble beginning I grew up in,” Finau said. “To me, to be a member of the Ryder Cup team – a dream of mine – is really humbling and satisfying. I’ve spoken to my dad and my wife, the people that have supported me, and it’s an incredible feeling. It’s humbling.
“I look forward to the opportunity to help the USA bring the Cup back. It’s been a long time. That’s something that our Captain has stressed to us. It’s one of his goals, so we’re going to do our best to accomplish that.”
With that, Finau was off on a plane bound for home in Utah, a longtime dream still sinking in with every mile.