The restart has been a slow one for Tony Finau.
The 17th-ranked player in the world played OK at the first two events since the PGA Tour resumed — the Charles Schwab Challenge and the RBC Heritage — but was never really in contention with a tie for 23rd followed by a tie for 33rd. And last week at the Travelers Championship, Finau missed the cut.
It looked like a similar fate awaited Finau this week at the Rocket Mortgage Classic as he double-bogeyed his first hole of the day in the second round on Friday followed by a pair of bogeys on the final three holes of his opening nine.
But Finau picked it up on the front nine at Detroit Golf Club — he started the round on No. 10 — and birdied three of the final four holes to make the cut on the number — 5-under.
It led to the opening tee time in the third round on Saturday and the overnight break hardly slowed Finau’s momentum. An eagle on No. 7 highlighted a front-nine 32 followed by two more birdies on the back to post a 66 and sit one back of the lead at the time at 11-under for the tournament.
“Yesterday it was just great for me to make the cut,” Finau said. “I was just happy to tee it up this morning, to have a tee time. I had to birdie three out of my last four holes yesterday just to tee it up today, so definitely some momentum. I had a nice little fist pump there just to get in the cut line and here I am with a good score on Saturday.
“Things can change pretty fast and I definitely experienced that in my last 24 holes playing.”
In a birdie barrage that has been the signature of the second-year event, the slow start in the opening round on Thursday might be what ultimately keeps Finau out of contention. But that doesn’t mean the week won’t be a success.
A strong finish on Sunday would be just what Finau needs to spark his restart after playing well early in the year. He had a top-10 finish at the Farmers Insurance Open in late January then was the runner-up at the Waste Management Phoenix Open in February, losing a two-shot lead late in the final round as Webb Simpson won in a playoff.
From there, it was two uneven starts before the Tour shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It was a break that took some of the edge off Finau’s game.
“I think the three months off definitely there's a little bit of rust there, just for me,” Finau said. “I don't know whether it's mentally. I worked on my physical body throughout quarantine, which is great physically, but the emotion and mental part I think has taken a little hit from me. I'm just working on that and I think this round helps.”
Getting the competitive juices flowing is important for Finau, who has played in both the Ryder Cup and the Presidents Cup. Fans are a huge part of those events and the fact the Tour is playing without any spectators for the first four tournaments since resuming — they’re expected to return in two weeks at The Memorial in Dublin, Ohio — hasn’t exactly helped.
But a strong finish in Finau’s first trip to Detroit Golf Club could help turn things around, fans or no fans.
“Just competing and being competitive, I think, after the three months off, I think I definitely just took a hit, like a little hit emotionally just getting myself hyped up,” Finau said. “I think a little bit of the energy out there with no fans, that usually gets my adrenaline going a little bit more. Obviously, I'm a very laid back guy … and pretty chill when I play golf and sometimes need a little bit of that energy.
“So I guess I am maybe missing the fans a little bit out here and getting just some of that energy up while I play. Hopefully, soon we can get them back out here.”
Finau will get one more round on his own Sunday, but he likes the direction he’s headed.
“I was close to going really low today, which was nice,” Finau said. “I haven't had like a really breakout round that gets me like, ‘All right, we're back.’ But I think I'm really close to putting together some great golf again and that's exciting for me.”