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SALT LAKE CITY — Tony Finau’s stellar season on the PGA Tour will continue through the biggest international team competition in golf.
And he’ll make history with it.
Finau was the final captain’s pick for the United States squad to compete at the 2018 Ryder Cup in Paris, team captain Jim Furyk announced Monday. The No. 7 golfer on the PGA Tour’s money list and No. 15 on the U.S. Ryder Cup points table, Finau joins Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau as a captain’s pick.
"It means a lot, to represent my country in a game that I play," Finau told KSL's Rod Zundel after landing in Utah following his eighth-place finish at the BMW Championship. "It’s something that I am very proud of; I am proud to be from here, to be born here, and to represent the country. We’re going to put our best foot forward."
Rickie Fowler, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Webb Simpson, Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Bubba Watson round out the squad that will compete against Europe at Le Golf National on Sept. 28-30.
“I think he brings a lot to the team, on the golf course but also off the golf course," said two-time major champion Zach Johnson, who flew with Finau to the Provo Airport. "In the team room, he’s going to be a valued asset."
Finau will use his length and drive to his advantage against the Europeans. But his short game may be the most underrated asset that could take the Americans to a Cup win, said Johnson, who won the Envirocare Utah Classic in 2003 on what is now known as the Web.com Tour.
"On a course like we’ll see in Paris, making putts and putting the ball in position is going to be key," Johnson said.
Finau is the third rookie to debut at this year’s Ryder Cup, joining DeChambeau and Thomas, the 2017 PGA champ.
The West High graduate, who currently lives in Lehi, is the first-ever native Utahn to be named to the Ryder Cup, and joins a list of local golfers named to the Ryder Cup that includes ex-BYU star Johnny Miller (1975, 1981) and Billy Casper (1961, 1963, 1965, 1971, 1973, 1975, 1979).
"I’m extremely proud to be from Utah," Finau said. "I love being from Utah, love what we have to offer, and what we represent. It’s a place I am extremely proud to be from, a loving place, and a place where we have a lot to offer.
"To be able to show that to the world is something that is really cool for me. I couldn’t be happier than right now to be on the team."
Finau beat out a host of golfers for the final spot on the squad, most notably Xander Schauffele. Schauffele would have been considered the favorite for the final spot on the team with a win in this weekend’s BMW Championships, but he finished tied for third at 19-under.
The first-ever American of Polynesian descent on the PGA Tour, Finau has had a remarkable season in 2018 — perhaps the best by a native Utahn to date. While not picking up a win, he finished second at the Safeway Open, Genesis Open and Northern Trust, and added a 10th-place finish at The Masters (in which he was also tied for the lead on a bum ankle), a fifth-place finish at the U.S. Open, a ninth-place run at the British Open, and top-50 finish at the PGA Championship.
To date, Finau has earned $5.4 million in winnings and is currently ranked 17th in the World Golf rankings.
Finau rose from humble beginnings, including banging golf balls against a garage door under the tutelage of his dad Kelepi. His father immigrated to the United States from Tonga at the age of 12, and though he didn't know any of the rules or strategies of golf, he fully supported his son pursuing his passion — even at extreme hardships for the family.
His mother Ravena also supported him, and though she died in a tragic car accident in 2011 just outside Elko, Nevada, Tony Finau acknowledged that he felt her pride when he got the first call-up to represent the United States.
"I think she’s pretty proud. I think about her quite a bit," an emotional Finau said of his late mother. "I walk around with a lot of confidence, and I’ve always been that way. But it’s because of my parents, and someone like my mom. They knew I could do things like this, and they gave me that confidence at a young age.
"To not have her here is tough, but she’s proud. I appreciate everything she’s done for me in the short time I had her."
Contributing: Rod Zundel