If you’re wondering why a player of prodigious talent like Tony Finau has a lone PGA Tour win to his record (at an alternate event, no less), a glance at his short-game statistics should deliver the answer. Though few are better off the tee than Big Tone, the 29-year-old has ranked outside the top 100 in strokes gained/putting in four of the last five seasons.
It was a deficiency that was also on display last week at the PGA Championship. Out of the 82 players who made the weekend at Bethpage Black, Finau ranked 79th in sg/putting with a -4.741 figure (yes, that’s a negative 4.741).
But that tide turned on Thursday at Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. Finau shot the best round of the morning wave at the Charles Schwab Challenge with a six-under 64—a score paved by a strong putting display, as he converted four birdies outside 18 feet and save a par by rolling in a 30-footer.
So what spurred the success on the greens? According to Finau, a switch to his putting grip.
“I haven’t been putting great I feel like, and standing over the ball the most important thing is, Do you feel like you’re going to make the putt or not?,” Finau said after his round. “Outside of everything else, Do you believe you can make the putt? So for me, I needed to switch something.”
Finau went to the “claw” style, a grip he had messed with earlier in his career. Clearly the move was prudent, currently ranking sixth in sg/putting on the day.
To be fair, this putting prowess was far from the only impetus. Despite finding just three fairways, Finau hit 16 greens on the day, ranking first in tee-to-green. Conversely, that type of production doesn’t matter if the putter isn’t speaking to you.
It’s only one round, and Colonial’s greens are not the toughest surfaces to navigate on tour. Still, if Finau can couple his power with this type of flat stick formidability on a regular basis, his 2016 Puerto Rico Open trophy may soon see company.
“I think it was just time to scratch that itch and see how it goes,” Finau said.