Hot start has Tony Finau tied for 2nd after 18 holes of PGA Championship

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SALT LAKE CITY — A few more days like his first 18 holes at Valhalla Golf Club and Tony Finau just might be able to shed his label as one of the PGA Tour's winningest golfers without a major victory.

The Rose Park native carded six birdies without a bogey en route to a 6-under-par 65 in the opening round of the PGA Championship in Louisville, Kentucky, Thursday.

That left Finau, 34, tied for second and three shots behind Xander Schauffele after 18 holes.

"This is the best start I've been off to in a major championship in my career, and I just haven't been able to play great first rounds, really, all year. So I'm playing catch up from the beginning," Finau said after his round. "It's nice to be in front of most of the guys after one round.

"Who knows how the guys are going to play in the afternoon, but I know I put myself where I need to be to allow myself to play good golf moving forward. And I always feel like I'm chasing the guys in front of me. It's a nice feeling to get off to the start that I did today."

Teeing off on the back tees, the father of five who splits his time between his home in Lehi and Scottsdale, Arizona, couldn't have asked for a better start, with birdies on four of his first six holes before hitting the turn at 5-under 31 with a birdie on the par-5, 571-yard No. 18.

Crediting a "process coach" for his hot start, Finau coasted into the clubhouse at 6-under, tying Sahith Theegala and Max Hubbard in second.

"I think I learned from so many different guys," he said. "I just added somebody to my team that I kind of have him as like a process coach, someone that allows me to have a process and have expectations that I can manage.

"So I think that's been helpful," he added. "He's been someone I could bounce ideas off, and he's been a great addition, I think, to my team."

Fellow Utah junior golf product Rory McIlroy is tied for fifth after shooting 5-under 66, joining Robert MacIntyre, Tom Hoge, Tom Kim, thomas Detry, Collin Morikawa and Maverick McNealy in the pack four shots back of Schauffele.

Finau's round was just the fourth time he's played bogey-free in a major championship in his career, and the first time at the PGA Championship, as first noted by The Athletic's Justin Ray.

Finau and Schauffele are two of the three winningest golfers on the PGA Tour without a major title, along with Rickie Fowler. The West High graduate has 10 wins without a major championship, three fewer than Fowler and two less than Schauffele.

Though finishing in the top five at least once at all four majors, Finau's best performance at the pinnacle of PGA Tour golf was a third-place finish at the British Open in 2019.

"It was a really nice round, round of golf. Bogey-free is the way to be," he said. "The golf course was, I think, there for the taking if you hit it in the fairway. With my length, I thought I was just able to take advantage of the golf course on a day where it was soft and scorable-type conditions."

Fellow native Utahn Zac Blair shot 2-over 73 to finish tied for 108th through 18 holes.

Finau will tee off Friday at 12:13 p.m. MDT with Tyrrell Hatton and Theegala on the No. 1 tee. Blair will tee off on No. 10 at 12:19 p.m. MDT with Ben Pollard and Ryan van Velzen.


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