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FARMINGTON — In 2014, Tony Finau was playing on the then-named Web.com Tour, looking to lock up a spot on the PGA Tour.
Four years later, the Salt Lake native was playing on the Ryder Cup team.
That’s just one of the reasons the development tour, now named the Korn Ferry Tour, holds a special significance to Finau. It’s where he grinded for years, where he honed his craft, where he developed into the golfer he is now.
It’s also where he learned he was pretty good. Because while it might not be the major tour, it’s pretty close.
This weekend, the Korn Ferry Tour returns to Utah. The Utah Championship will be held Thursday through Sunday at Oakridge Country Club in Farmington.
Finau’s respect for the developmental tour isn't unique. He’s not the only one of the top golfers to have come through it — not by a long shot
“You are truly talking about the best players in the world,” Finau said. “And they are going to prove that to you in the years to come.”
Last year’s winner of the Utah Championship, Cameron Champ, is already starting to. Champ mathematically locked up a spot on the PGA Tour by winning the 2018 Utah Championship and has already won an event on the larger tour.
“He’s a legitimate contender for that rookie of the year honor,” Korn Ferry Tour commissioner Alexandra Baldwin said.
Champ raised eyebrows throughout the golf world with his Utah Championship performance where he drove the ball upwards of 400 yards.
“We have an opportunity to watch them before they become Jordan Spieth or Justin Thomas,” Finau said. “It’s really cool. The Utah Championship holds a special place in my golfing career. … You have an opportunity, on Utah soil, to watch some of the best players in the world.”
The fans just might not know who they are yet.
Thomas played in Utah in 2014; current U.S. Open champion Gary Woodland played here in 2007; and Xander Schauffele, who is currently ranked No. 10 in the world, played at the Utah Championship in 2016.
The list of players to tee off at Utah’s biggest golf competition also includes Bubba Watson, Ernie Els, Zach Johnson and John Daly.
Who are some of the young names to watch in this year’s tour?
Scottie Scheffler, 23, has placed in the top seven in six of his last seven tournaments — a run that includes one victory and two runner-up finishes. He also competed in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach.
Robby Shelton, 23, won twice over a three-week span last month.
Vincent Whalen, 24, has had two top-three finishes during his rookie season on the tour.
Doug Ghim, 23, has two top-10s in his last three starts.
While Finau, whose foundation has partnered with the Utah Championship, enjoys what the Korn Ferry Tour offers, he has hope — or maybe more of a wish — that a major tour event could one day come to Utah.
“I think we should have a TPC (Tournament Players Club) golf course here,” Finau said. “I don't know why we don't. With the success I have had, Daniel (Summerhays), Zac (Blair) — some of the other guys, Mike Weir lives here, Dan Forsman. Almost every surrounding state has a TPC golf course, but for some reason we don’t. It would be special if there was ever a PGA tour event here.”
For now, though, the Utah Championship will have to do. And that’s proven to be pretty special in its own right.