Tony Finau notched a runner-up finish at the Safeway Open thanks in part to a friendly kick off the ball of one of his playing partners.
Finau was trying to chase down Brendan Steele when he pulled his approach to the 12th hole at Silverado Resort and Spa, plugging into a greenside trap. The subsequent blast appeared to be racing past the hole but it collided with the ball of Jason Kokrak, who had just chipped to within a few feet of the hole from 30 yards off the green.
Instead of facing a lengthy par putt, Finau’s ball instead stopped just 2 feet away and he easily converted the save.
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“Funny thing is, I forgot he hit. I was so focused on what I needed to do and how hard my shot was,” Finau said. “I hit a perfect shot, but it was still going to go about 25-30 feet past. It was a bonus to hit his ball. I used the rules to my advantage, I guess, not knowing.”
Finau went on to birdie the next hole to grab a share of the lead, but his fortunes turned with a double bogey on No. 14. That dropped him two behind Steele, and while he had a crack at a 32-foot eagle try on No. 18 even that, in hindsight, would have left him one shot out of a playoff.
It’s still a strong result in the season-opener for Finau, who qualified for the Tour Championship for the first time last month and showed no signs of a letdown after a week off.
“I played some good golf this week. Honestly was happy with the way I hung in there,” Finau said. “I didn’t feel great over the ball. I didn’t hit a lot of quality shots off the tee coming in that I needed to, but still to be able to put myself in a situation where a playoff, or maybe a win with that putt on 18, was still pretty cool. Plenty of positives taken away from this.”