Golf by the numbers: Tony Finau’s stats show steady progress to the top

Sep 1, 2018; Norton, MA, USA; Tony Finau signals an errant tee shot off the 14th hole during the second round of the Dell Technologies Championship golf tournament at TPC of Boston. Mandatory Credit: Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports Mark Konezny/USA TODAY Sports

Golf by the numbers: Tony Finau’s stats show steady progress to the top

Digital Edition

Golf by the numbers: Tony Finau’s stats show steady progress to the top

NORTON, Mass. – Up and down the range at TPC Boston, the consensus last week before the start of the Dell Technologies Championship was that Bryson DeChambeau’s win at the Northern Trust had earned him a captain’s pick from Jim Furyk and he will join the United States Ryder Cup team.

For several weeks, it also has been assumed by the people who watch the pros week in and week out that Furyk will use two more captain’s picks to place Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson on the team.

The favorite to get the fourth and final pick, after everything that happened this season, is Tony Finau. The 28-year-old was the runnerup to DeChambeau at the Northern Trust, has nine top-10 finishes this season and was ranked No. 18 in the Official World Golf Ranking heading into Boston.

Should we have seen Finau’s ascension coming? And what can the numbers tell us about how he has improved his game?

The chart below shows Finau’s strokes gained statistics for the last four years. As can be seen, while he has always been a solid player off the tee, the rest of Finau’s game has improved over the last two seasons.

In 2016, Finau struggled from the fairway and gave away strokes to the average player on approach shots, shots hit around the green and in putting. The following season, however, his ballstriking improved significantly and his strokes gained off the tee average rose from -0.247 to 0.39. That may not seem like a lot, but that increase of 0.637 shots per 18 holes translates to more than two-and-a-half shots over 72 holes, which is massive.

Not surprisingly, Finau’s scoring average dropped by nearly a full shot, from 70.797 (65th) to 69.987 (16th), and his earnings jumped from $1,814,790 to $2,838,729.

Finau’s advantage off the tee has fallen slightly this season, but his strokes gained total average has gone up because the other parts of his game have improved. The 2017-18 PGA Tour regular season, which concluded after the Wyndham Championship, was the first Finau has completed without having a negative average in at least one strokes gained category.

“I feel like I have always been a great scrambler,” Finau said after shooting his fourth-round 68 at Ridgewood. “Short game is always something I am working on. I’m always trying to get better. I know I have the length and I know I have the game, but a lot of times it comes down to chipping and putting and getting up and down when you need to.”

As can be seen in the chart below, from a strokes gained standpoint, Finau’s 2018 season has been better than two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka’s, and it is very similar to Dustin Johnson’s 2014 season, when the current No. 1 in the OWGR won the WGC-HSBC Champions and earned seven top-10 finishes.

Johnson continued to improve his long game after 2013, then developed his wedge game and putting, won the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont and reached the top of the rankings.

Time will tell if Finau will follow a similar path. But he appears to have the tools and the desire, and there is no reason to think he cannot establish himself as a fixture in the top 20 and a threat to win majors. Gwk

Latest

More Digital Edition
Home