Tony Finau: On ending his title drought and aiming to go one better at Saudi International

American world No 16 finished runner-up on debut at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club

Tony Finau will be one of a number of high-ranked Americans to compete at the 2022 Saudi International. Getty Images
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World No 16 Tony Finau returns this week to the Saudi International, where he finished runner-up on debut last year to Dustin Johnson. The American finished two shots behind his compatriot, but went on to have a fine year: in August, Finau triumphed at The Northern Trust to break a five-year spell between his first and second wins on the PGA Tour, while he was also part of the successful US Ryder Cup side at Whistling Straits.

Finau tees it up again this week at Royal Greens Golf & Country Club, where the tournament begins its new era as the flagship event on the revamped Asian Tour. Subsequently, the field is the strongest to be assembled on that circuit, and includes top-10 players in Johnson, Bryson DeChambeau and Xander Schauffele.

The National caught up with Finau ahead of the February 3-6 event.

You obviously went so close to winning last time. What did you learn from that, and how did that set you up for a stellar 2021?

For sure, it was close coming down the stretch and it is always fun to battle it out with the best players in the world. DJ played great that week and was a deserving champion. I think experience has been my biggest teacher in life, and I’ve been able to use experiences like last year to keep me hungry and working hard.

How will that performance benefit you going into this week’s event, specifically?

I really liked the golf course - it definitely fit my game. Having success on any golf course gives you confidence for the next time you have the opportunity to go there. I look forward to building on what I learned last year and hopefully becoming a Saudi International champion.

How important is it for you to play all around the world, and how does that shape your schedule for 2022?

I believe that to be considered a true champion of our sport, you have to prove you can win all around the world. The greatest players in the history of our game have shown they can do that.

The play-off victory at Liberty National must have felt a long time coming and, for golf fans who recognise your talent, long overdue. How important do you feel that win will be going forward?

My win at The Northern Trust last year was extremely special for me, my family and my team. It was great to prove my fans and supporters right after many close calls. It has definitely been a huge boost for my confidence.

What was the most difficult hurdle to overcome in your pursuit of a second PGA Tour title?

I had a great chance to win the 2020 Waste Management Phoenix Open, which I unfortunately lost in a play-off. The PGA Tour season was suspended due to the pandemic soon after, so that was a tough one to have to sit on.

Last year was another successful one for you. What was the highlight outside of The Northern Trust, and why?

Representing my country at the Ryder Cup was an incredible honour and experience. I’ll cherish the memories of our team’s win on home soil, at Whistling Straits, for the rest of my life.

What are your main goals for 2022, and what do you feel will be the key ingredient in realising those?

Notching another win is definitely high on my list, preferably a major, and making the US Presidents Cup team.

There are a number of US players competing at the Saudi International. How strong do you feel American golf is, and what does that mean for the Ryder Cup rivalry with Team Europe?

I think American golf is in a really great place right now. We have some incredible players in the game and many more young stars coming up. Our rivalry with Europe in the Ryder Cup cannot be overstated, and I know we will continue to have some incredible matches for years to come.

Updated: June 09, 2023, 12:12 PM