DETROIT – Tony Finau makes the game easy.
He does that sometimes.
A week after winning his third PGA TOUR title at the 3M Open, Finau shot a third-round 65 to tie playing partner Taylor Pendrith (66) for the lead at 21 under at the Rocket Mortgage Classic at Detroit Golf Club. They are four ahead of Cameron Young (65), five ahead of Stephan Jaeger (65).
“Taylor is playing good golf,” Finau said. “I can’t say we’ve strayed from the guys, it’s the type of golf course where someone can shoot 8, 9, 10 under, but if we have a good round tomorrow it might be a two-man race and I can’t wait to take on the challenge again.
The tournament goalscoring record (25 under, Nate Lashley, 2019) is very much in jeopardy.
Patrick Cantlay (66) is six times, but the defending FedExCup champion has some work to do.
If it was a two-man race on Sunday, Pendrith would be considered the underdog. The 6-foot-5 Canadian is a TOUR rookie at 31 and ranked 237th in the world. (Finau is 16th.) Pendrith hasn’t even played much this year, taking a 12-week break to nurse a fractured rib, an injury he says he suffered from simply swinging a club.
Although he earned his TOUR card due to finishing (No. 5) on the Korn Ferry Tour regular season points list last season, Pendrith was one of three players to do so without a win. Nonetheless, he, too, is firing on all cylinders in the Motor City, birding eight on Saturday, including four in the final five holes to tie for the lead.
“Yeah, that was cool,” he said. “Obviously he made a ton of birdies and I finished the round with a lot of birdies so that was fun. We were going back and forth. Tony bombs him off the tee and I hit him away too , so it was fun, kind of like games I guess, and we attacked it very well.
Young, who finished T3 at the PGA Championship and second at The Open Championship, is the leading candidate for the PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year. He thought he was going to be five late before the final round and said, “I have to play a ridiculous round of golf tomorrow to have a chance.” But even at four behind, he’ll probably still need a ridiculous lap.
Finau is usually a tee-to-green superstar, and this week is no different. He hit 13 of 14 fairways on Saturday and, for the second day in a row, hit 16 of 18 greens in regulation time. Add his 18-for-18 first-round effort, a career first, and he’s 50-for-54.
“Yeah, I think that’s a big reason why I hit so many greens,” he said. “I just hit a lot more fairways than I’m used to or in the past. This golf course really opens up to you if you hit it in the short grass and it definitely has those first three rounds for me.
He’s also 7th in the pack in Strokes Gained: Putting (4.398), a powerful one-two punch, and he’s yet to make a single bogey this week. His highlight on Saturday may have been his huge flop third on the par-5 14th hole, where, from rough to a green running away from him, it was going to be hard to stop the ball if it didn’t hit the hole. It did just that – when you’re on, you’re on – before stopping 8 feet, 2 inches past the pin. He made the putt.
The last player to earn back-to-back weeks in the FedExCup regular season was Brendon Todd in 2019. The last to earn back-to-back starts was Xander Schauffele earlier this season, at the Travelers Championship and the Genesis Scottish Open. Scottie Scheffler (World Golf Championships-Dell Technology Match Play, Masters Tournament) was also successful this year.
“I feel like I hit as well as I hit it from tee to green last week, so I think I definitely elevated that part of the game,” Finau said. “It’s good to capitalize on some putts.”