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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
Riles & Hardy Team Up for First PGA Win
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.
For Hardy and Riley, this moment was years in the making. Both AJGA All-Americans growing up, the two have dealt with the difficulties of playing on the PGA Tour first hand. Hardy fought injury in the latter stages of 2022, aggravating his wrist at this very tournament, and was forced to go through the Korn Ferry Tour Playoffs to retain his playing privileges. Riley meanwhile has experienced his fair share of close calls with the winner's circle.
Even more importantly, this catapults both of them inside the top 40 of the FedEx Cup and secures their playing privileges moving forward. Beginning the week outside the top 80, they are both locks to make their way into the postseason and are proof these regular events still hold significant weight and importance for those players itching to make a name for themselves. Grade: A+
Here is the breakdown of the rest of the notable teams on the leaderboard at the 2023 Zurich Classic.
3. Wyndham Clark/Beau Hossler (-27): For the majority of the tournament, it felt as if the first time winners would be Clark and Hossler. Holding at least a share of the lead after each round, the two were on their way early in the final round. Carding a couple early birdies, the wheels began to fall off when a sloppy bogey was made on the par-5 7th. Unable to take advantage of the short 8th, additional birdie bids would fall by the wayside on the back nine. The inability to take advantage of the par 5s and short par 4s was ultimately their downfall and opened the door for the eventual winners to walk through. Despite this disappointment, the week should be chalked up as a success as both players tasted contention for the first time in a while. Grade: A
T4. Patrick Cantlay/Xander Schauffele (-26): While their play in foursomes was impressive, their play in four-ball simply fell short. Signing for rounds of 67-66, the two friends were unable to card enough birdies in the easier format to apply pressure on the rest of the field. While their quality shined in the difficult alternate shot, by that point, it was too little too late. They came into the week as heavy favorites and will be kicking themselves for not kick-starting their season at this event as they did last year. With only 17 events left in the season, the two remain winless as spring enters its latter stages.
"Best ball wasn't our best format this year compared to last year," Cantlay said. "We both had some opportunities to save some pars and make some putts that we didn't make this year. Coming down the stretch, I just hit a poor drive on 18 and put him in a bad spot. That was kind of the story of the week. We didn't necessarily hit all the great shots when we needed to." Grade: C
6. Keith Mitchell/Sungjae Im (-25): After getting into a share of the lead with an opening birdie, these two failed to set up realistic birdie opportunities on a consistent basis. Both players were to blame as loose shots off the tee from Mitchell handcuffed Im and poor iron shots from Im left Mitchell in a pickle. Still, if there was a team that would be classified as a winner despite not raising hardware, it is these two. Seemingly becoming best friends out of thin air, Im and Mitchell cultivated a bromance few expected. Grade: B
T7. Si Woo Kim/Tom Kim (-23): The International Presidents Cup teammates from Quail Hollow were unable to capture the same type of magic at TPC Louisiana. They acquitted themselves quite nicely in foursomes with rounds of 67-68, but similar to Cantlay and Schauffele, were unable to produce enough fireworks in Rounds 1 and 3. After both got off to scorching starts to the 2022-23 season with victories, perhaps this week will act as a launchpad for the final few months of the year as their quality has dropped ever so slightly. Grade: C
MC. Collin Morikawa/Max Homa (--): The Californians were never able to get things going around TPC Louisiana as they followed a round of 6 under in four-ball with a 2-under 70 in foursomes to miss the cut by one. Despite their pedigree, it was always going to be difficult for this team to compete in this shootout style given Morikawa's shortcomings with the putter in hand and Homa's lackluster tee to green presence over the last month. Morikawa carried the brunt of the weight and should be able to brush this missed cut off. Meanwhile, Homa may be different as his struggles since the Florida Swing have continued to persist. Grade: F
Source: CBS Sports
Meet the Seven Amateurs Invited to LPGA's First Major
World No. 3 Saki Baba headlines the seven amateurs who will tee it up in the Chevron Championship, the first LPGA major of the year. The 2022 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion will make her debut in the April 20-23 event, held for the first time at The Club at Carlton Woods in The Woodlands, Texas.
While the championship no longer overlaps with the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, it does conflict with several NCAA conference championships. The Pac-12 and American Athletic Conference championships end on April 19 while the Big Ten, the Big 12 and several others end Sunday, April 23.
Top-ranked amateur Rose Zhang, who recently won the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, will aim for her 10th college title at the Pac-12 Championship rather than make another major championship start.
Here’s the full list of amateurs in the field:
Japan’s Baba made her major championship debut last summer at the U.S. Women’s Open where she made the cut and tied for 49th. Baba tied for 34th at the LPGA event in Thailand earlier this year. She also tied for 16th on the JLPGA last month. Baba won the U.S. Women’s Amateur with a crushing 11-and-9 victory over Monet Chun.
USC’s Amari Avery, No. 11 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, will make her Chevron debut after receiving a sponsor invitation. The 19-year-old will head to Texas directly from the Pac-12s on Wednesday and will tee it up without having played any kind of practice round. Avery received the invitation too late to make the trip in advance of this week.
UCLA’s Zoe Campos earned her way into the field by claiming the Chevron Silverado Showdown earlier this month. With the victory, Campos became the first Bruin since 2019 to win multiple titles in a season. Campos will also head to The Woodlands directly from the Pac-12 Championship, which ends Wednesday and will tee it up without a practice round.
Taiwan’s Ting-Hsuan Huang will make her LPGA and major debut at The Chevron. The 2022 Women’s Amateur Asia-Pacific champion also secured starts in this year’s AIG Women’s British Open and Amundi Evian Championship. The 18-year-old recently finished 22nd at the Augusta National Women’s Amateur.
England’s Jess Baker earned her spot in the field by winning the 2022 Women’s British Amateur. The UCF player will finish up her conference championship on Wednesday in Florida and fly straight to Texas for the first round of the Chevron. She did her prep work in the weeks leading up to the championship.