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Finau’s Secret in Minnesota: Short Game

By Keith Stewart, PGA
Published on

Tony Finau won 3M Open last Sunday with stellar ball striking, a little luck and his secret weapon when he contends: short game. Known for being a bomber, Finau rarely gets the credit he deserves for being a solid player around the greens. This past week in Blaine, Minnesota, Finau gained almost four shots around the green against the field. 
Sunday was one of those classic tournament finales…  And even though Finau had his own moments down the stretch, he held it together with solid ball striking and a little wizardry around the greens. Finau ranked third off the tee and on approach, winning by 3 strokes to collect his 3rd career PGA Tour win. 

Finau’s 17-under-par total came from a well-rounded effort that produced twenty birdies and four rounds in the 60’s. The only player in the field to have all four rounds in the 60s, it reminds of his playoff win at the Northern Trust last season. That victory in a playoff over 2022 Open Champion Cam Smith came by way of great tee to green play and a couple of timely saves, just like this past Sunday.
In Saturday’s third round, Finau made his biggest move in the tournament with a sensational 65. That round included a birdie on the Par-5 12th from a bunker. 
Watch Finau’s fantastic form below.
Standing 6’4”, Finau makes this lie, situation and shot look easy. There’s a lot of things Final does with this shot that we all could copy, but to reach for a little variety, let’s highlight his skill around the green. After all, for a guy who can reach 200mph in ball speed, this is one area of Finau’s we can relate to…
  • Start with his setup, see how low his hands are. This is a key in sand shots most amateurs overlook. By keeping your hands lower, the club will come down on a much shallower angle of attack. 
  • When we have a shallower approach to the ball, we tend to scalp and lift the sand rather than dig into it. This makes it much easier to get the ball out.
  • Another positive to being shallow versus steep is speed. Most players get scared to swing quickly in the sand. Did you see how fast Tony sent his club through the sand. That creates lift and spin. Two features of a bunker shot most amateurs admire. 
  • The last move Finau exhibits here is the movement of his midsection. Look again at how his hips rotate through impact. Most get frozen from the waist down in the bunker. That will steepen your approach and cause you to dig or rise up and thin the shot. In either case, that ball is not coming out of the sand. 
Finau’s a fantastic ball striker. His ability to create power and consistent contact from such a simple compact swing is extraordinary. If you want to create your own kind of “special” – stick to the elements of his short game. The next time you get to the practice area, hit a few sand shots with the keys listed above and you’ll be better from the bunker for it.