Finau outlasts Rahm at Vidanta
2023 Mexico Open leaderboard, grades: Tony Finau outlasts world No. 1 Jon Rahm for victory at Vidanta
Finau became the fourth PGA Tour player to record multiple victories this season with his win in Mexico.
"Confidence when you win is contagious," said Tony Finau after winning the 2022 Houston Open for his fifth career title on the PGA Tour. At the 2023 Mexico Open on Sunday, Finau's confidence was on full display as he outmanned and outgunned the hottest player in the world, Jon Rahm, en route to his sixth victory and fourth in his last 18 starts with a 24-under performance.
Beginning the day with a two-stroke lead over his good friend and playing partner most off weeks in Scottsdale, Arizona, Finau squashed the thought of any potential duel from the very start. A birdie on the opener saw Finau expand his lead to three before three casual pars on the next three.
Up ahead in the penultimate group, Brandon Wu would make his presence known. Carding three birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes, the 26-year-old momentarily caught Finau at 21 under. However, that would be as close Wu would get as mistakes piled up while Finau's quality began to persist.
A birdie on the par-3 5th was followed by a nifty par save on the 6th, a crucial birdie on No. 7 and an even more critical par on the 8th. Finau turned in 3 under, and not only regained the lead but grew his margin as a three-stroke edge was in his hands despite Rahm, Wu and Akshay Bhatia all throwing their fair share of punches.
Unfortunately for the chasing pack, none of them would land and no noticeable unease would imprint on the leader.
The final nine from Finau was a masterclass on how to play with a large lead. Laying up short of trouble, converting birdie opportunities when presented and slowly draining the life out of the tournament and his fellow competitors, the 33-year-old's inward half 34 meant a final round 66 and a three-stroke victory.
This all -- staring the world No. 1 square in the eyes and sneakily becoming one of the most prominent winners on Tour – probably doesn't materialize for Finau if this tournament was just three years in the past. Enduring a five-year winless drought over 142 tournaments, Finau has now won five times since his victory in the 2021 FedEx Cup Playoffs at the Northern Trust just 41 starts ago.
"On Sunday out here I've learned that you just have to be aggressive, you have to make birdies," said Finau. "Guys are going to make birdies. There's so many great players, especially someone of Rahmbo's stature … So my mindset on Sundays I think has just changed. You never get comfortable with the lead. That's my nature, anyway, is to be an aggressive player. I always have been that way, and so Sundays are starting to shape up better for me since I've been in contention, but I think I just have learned a lot."
With this win, Finau becomes the fourth player on the PGA Tour to claim multiple victories on the season joining Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa. Rarely is he discussed in such company as he has yet to win an upper echelon event such as the Genesis Invitational let alone a major championship.
However, just like Finau's former inability to close, expect him to figure this out and soon. With the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club quickly approaching, Finau will be among those capable of taking down Rahm (as he did today) and the other members of the true elite such as Scheffler. His iron play tops the PGA Tour over the last six months, and his confidence may not be far behind.
"Anytime you can battle with a guy like Jon Rahm, who's in the form that he was, and come out on top, it makes me feel good," said Finau. Rahm is a good friend of mine, we practice quite a bit together, so having Rahmbo as, like, a sparring partner for me has only made me better and I hope he can say the same.
"As far as my future, you never know what your future holds, but take it a day at a time and this is a nice step in the right direction on my season. We'll just continue to stack up hopefully some wins and some major championships in the future." Grade: A+
Here is the breakdown for the rest of the leaderboard at the 2023 Mexico Open
2. Jon Rahm (-21): The world No. 1 could have joined the illustrious five-win club with a successful title defense (which also would have been the first of his career). Had Rahm won, he would have been the fastest to five wins in a season since Johnny Miller in 1974. Instead, he will have to wait. Even the best gets outmaneuvered sometimes, and after firing a course-record 61 on Saturday, Rahm was not able to replicate such an effort on Sunday. Rahm is set to forgo his first elevated event of the season at next week's Wells Fargo Championship, meaning the next time we see him will be the PGA Championship at Oak Hill CC. After weeks of media obligations following his Masters victory, the absence in Charlotte makes some sense and is more than well deserved. Grade: A-
3. Brandon Wu (-19): Three birdies and an eagle in his first seven holes saw Wu momentarily grab a share of the lead. He immediately gave a shot back on the par-4 8th and was unable to muster together the magic on the back nine. Wu finished in a flurry with a then-course record 63 to finish runner up to Rahm in 2022, and a similar felling engulfed Vidanta on Sunday. The 26-year-old is still without a victory on the PGA Tour although he has become a sneaky good coastal-course player with his results at Vidanta, Puerto Rico and even Scotland. Grade: A
4. Akshay Bhatia (-18): Despite falling short, the 21-year-old impressed early in the final group alongside Rahm and Finau. Bhatia made two birdies in his opening six holes to reach 19 under before the wheels began to fall off. He's still so young and has so much to learn, but the implementation of AimPoint on the greens proved to be a massive difference maker and may continue to be one down the road. Bhatia will aim to gather even more experience such as this as he continues to play out his special temporary membership. Grade: A
T25. Wyndham Clark (-10): After experiencing a close call a week ago at the Zurich Classic, Clark appeared primed to finally break through. He got off to a slow start and was never able to recover as the top of the leaderboard ran away from the field. Overall, it was just a ho-hum week for the Scottsdale area resident as he ranked outside the top 20 in each major strokes gained category. He's enjoying a fantastic year from a statistical perspective, and while Clark would love to contend at designated events, it's these regular tournaments at which he will need to make his hay. Grade: C
T39. Gary Woodland (-7): The 2019 U.S. Open champion continues to strike the ball soundly as he ranked third in strokes gained tee to green on the week thanks to strong efforts both off the tee and on approach. Woodland even got something from his short game – a somewhat rare occurrence – but once again fell flat with the putter. After making the cut on the number, Woodland fought his way up the leaderboard through the final 36 holes, but ultimately the lack of consistently holing putts (he ranked last in strokes gained putting) was too much to overcome. Grade: D
Source: CBS Sports
2023 Zurich Classic Winner, David Riley & Nick Hardy team up to win FIRST TIME on PGA Tour
Winning on the PGA Tour is difficult. Each and every year, the circuit is replenished with fresh new talent while the mainstays remain at the top. Just ask Davis Riley and Nick Hardy who are in the middle of their second seasons and claimed their first career titles at the 2023 Zurich Classic at 30 under after rounds of 64-66-63-65.
"This is so special and to share it with one of my best friends out here on Tour is a dream come true," Riley said. "The progression of playing high school, college golf and playing PGA Tour golf is super special and to share this moment with Nick is pretty cool."
While Riley wasn't even supposed to play in this event after he teamed up with injured Will Zalatoris in 2022, Hardy originally sought the services of his former collegiate teammate Thomas Detry. The Belgian decided to pair with a potential European Ryder Cup teammate Victor Perez, and as such, Hardy looked in the direction of Riley, a fellow PGA Tour sophomore and longtime friend.
Their relationship that began at the age of 14 proved to be fruitful as they set the all-time tournament scoring record and surpassed the mark set by defending champions Patrick Cantlay and Xander Schauffele.
Beginning the day three strokes off the pace set by Wyndham Clark and Beau Hossler, the winning duo didn't really get into gear until the back nine on Sunday. Turning in a respectable 2 under, Hardy and Riley found their stride with five back-nine birdies including a near ace on the par-3 14th struck by Riley.
"All I had to do was hear it," Hardy said of Riley's shot. "It was the purest 5 iron I have ever heard, I didn't even watch it and it almost went in obviously. It was really solid down the stretch and it just feels great to close."
This would pull them into a share of the lead with a surging Nick Taylor and Adam Hadwin and a sputtering Hossler and Clark. With the Canadians setting the clubhouse lead at 28 under, the young guns kept their heads down and went to work. A clutch birdie on the short par-4 16th put them in control before an unlikely bid from off the green on 17 slammed the door shut on Hossler and Clark who were behind them on the golf course.
Charlie Reiter is finaly playing on thye pro golf tour see what Jon Rahm says about this
As an 18-year-old playing on an exemption in a PGA Tour event, Charlie Reiter so impressed Jon Rahm with his clubhead speed that the Spaniard said he expected the lanky teen to hit it by him.
“He hits it far and when I mean far, I mean really far, like he can easily get it past me,” said Rahm, then the third-ranked player in the world, who was a member with Reiter at Bighorn Golf Club in Palm Desert, California. “He reminds me of Brandon Hagy (a Cal product and another TrackMan marvel); they’re both similar build, not the biggest guys, but they’re just fit and have a lot of power.”
During the second round of the 2018 CareerBuilder Challenge (now the American Express) Reiter averaged 348.5 yards off the tee in the second round on PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course, where he pounded two of the three longest drives recorded during the event’s first 54 holes. In the third round, he averaged 332.5 yards on a windy day around PGA West’s Stadium Course.
Reiter started consistently hitting the ball more than 300 yards during his freshman year of high school, when he was just 14 years old. And the prodigy’s golf story begins in infancy. His father, Mike, a skilled golfer who played on the mini-tours, used to put plastic clubs in Charlie’s crib. By age 4, Reiter won his first tournament.
Trophies began to pile up. When Reiter was 10 he competed in the Golf Channel Amateur Tour National Championship at PGA West.
And now, finally, Reiter has a professional golf tour to play – at least for the rest of the year.
Reiter, who turned pro last fall after a summer that saw him play in the U.S. Open and the U.S. Amateur, rallied from four shots back at the start of the day Friday to win a U.S. qualifier tournament for the PGA Tour Canada. With a final-round 3-under 69 at Soboba Springs Golf Club in San Jacinto, California. Reiter is now fully exempt for the Canada tour that begins its season in June.
“Now I have a full schedule over the summer,” Reiter said after gaining full status for the Canada circuit. “I know what the summer will be.”
Reiter finished at 15-under 283, including a sizzling 64 in the third round, to edge Kyle Karazissis of La Quinta, California, by a single shot. Karazissis, a mini-tour golfer who also caddies at The Quarry in La Quinta, will be exempt on the PGA Tour Canada for the first five events, through that tour’s first reshuffle of exemptions.
Reiter’s victory turned on a two-shot swing on the final hole Friday. On the par 5, Reiter hit a good drive and reached the green in two shots, while Karazissis was forced to lay up and reached the green in three. Reiter had a routine two-putt from 20 feet for his birdie, but Karazissis three-putted from 35 feet, including a hard lip-out of his par putt from about 10 feet.
Reiter, who played college golf at both USC and the University of San Diego, fired rounds of 70, 70, 64 and 69 to win the qualifier. Karazissis stumbled to a 74 in the final round.
Reiter started his final round quickly with three consecutive birdies on the fourth, fifth and sixth holes, but he followed that with three bogeys in a row starting on the eighth hole.
The comeback started with a birdie on the 13th hole, then continued with a birdie 2 on the 16th hole. Reiter then completed the comeback with his birdie on the 18th.
Qualifying for the PGA Tour Canada was always part of Reiter’s plan for 2023 after he missed signup dates for Korn Ferry Tour qualifying last fall and also struggled for the money to sign up since he was still an amateur.
“I wasn’t thinking about (Korn Ferry qualifying) that quickly. I was just sort of so jumbled up with the U.S. Am and stuff like that,” Reiter said. “I just kind of forgot about it.”
This year he has played in the Asher Tour, a mini tour mostly in California, while preparing for PGA Tour Canada qualifying.
“This is kind of the other first little way,” Reiter said of PGA Tour Canada qualifying.
Reiter, whose 2022 season also included a victory in the California State Amateur, has experience in professional events, having played in PGA Tour’s The American Express three times as an amateur, including when he was a senior at Palm Desert High School.
The PGA Tour Canada will play a 10-event schedule starting with the Royal Beach Victoria Open in Victoria, British Columbia, June 15-18. The tour will end its year with the Fortinet Cup Championship in September. The Order of Merit winner from the tour will earn status on the PGA Tour’s developmental Korn Ferry Tour in 2024.
“There are other opportunities,” Reiter added. “I’m playing in May up in Reno, the Reno Open, and if you win that, you get to play in the Barracuda (Championship on the PGA Tour in July). You never know.”
A win at the Barracuda Championship would put Reiter in more PGA Tour events in the following weeks.
“If I could play in three or four straight events, I would probably get conditional status,” Reiter said.
The PGA Tour remains the ultimate goal for the 23-year-old who is still living in San Diego for now. But his summer will also include U.S. Open qualifying, something he did last summer that allowed him to play his way into his first U.S. Open last June.
“It will be a busy summer,” Reiter said.
Beulaville Area Chamber of Commerce Scholarship Golf Tournament
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