GOLF

Finau wins 3M Open by 3 with late push, Piercy collapses

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BLAINE, Minn. (AP) — After reading that he was the betting favorite for the 3M Open, Tony Finau felt the pressure surprisingly mounting in his mind as he sought to extend the momentum he had built this summer.

Playing catch-up proved to be the right formula for his third PGA Tour victory.

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Finau shot a 4-under 67 to win the 3M Open by three strokes on Sunday, erasing a five stroke deficit with 11 holes to go as Scott Piercy lost the lead in the windy stretch of TPC Twin Cities.

“I expected to struggle and win again this year, so to be able to do it so late in the season when you’re running out of tournaments and putting that type of expectation on yourself is so satisfying,” said Finau, who finished 17-under 267.

Sungjae Im (68) and Emiliano Grillo (71) tied for second place. Piercy followed his tournament-record 54-hole score with a grimace-inducing 76 to tie for fourth, four strokes back. James Hahn jumped up the board with a 65 to tie Piercy and Tom Hoge (70) at 13 under.

Piercy bogeyed four of six holes before one three-bogie implosion on No. 14, allowing Finau – playing in the previous trio – to take over definitively. Graciously congratulated by Piercy outside the scoring tent, Finau, 32, recorded the biggest winning rally in four editions of this event.

“I’m about as good an example as anyone of how hard it is to get the deal done,” said Finau, whose previous wins date back to 2016 and 2021. He has 10 second-place finishes and three thirds. “Every time you win one, it’s great to get the respect of the guys you’re playing against.”

The strongest support came, naturally, from his wife and five children. They stayed with him in a rented house next to the course and followed him from tee to green. Fishing expeditions and family meals helped Finau not think about his swing when he didn’t need to be there.

“I am a husband. I’m a dad. I am their friend. I try to have a good time with them,” Finau said.

Finau, who finished tied for third at the 3M Open in 2020, moved up from 30th to 17th in the FedEx Cup race. He entered the week ranked 17th in the world.

Finau made a 31ft putt for a birdie on the 15th green to strengthen his grip on the head, as he navigated the course confidently in his slender 6ft 4in frame, white hat and striped polo shirt aqua.

The surest sign that it was Finau’s day came at No 17. His tee shot banged off the side of the stand, ricocheted off the green and rolled into the rough – just yards from the ‘water. He landed the perfect chip less than a foot from the hole to make the par 3, then smiled slightly as he clutched his hand to his chest as if to claim the streak had given him heart trouble.

On the formidable par-5 18th, Finau found the starting water to face a final challenge. But with Piercy watching from the fairway, Finau bogeyed 3ft to seal it. He threw several punches, took off his cap and walked towards hug his family.

Piercy shared the first-round lead with Im on Thursday after a 65 and retired from the peloton Friday with a 64 to take a three-shot advantage into the weekend. He extended his lead to four strokes after enduring the 6½ hour weather delay and a painful heel blister on Saturday.

It was nothing compared to the grind he found himself in on Sunday. He was at 20 cents after six holes. Less than an hour later, Piercy was in trouble. After posting just three bogeys on his first 61 holes, he has exceeded par on seven of his last 11. This included the 7s he returned on No. 14.

Piercy’s tee shot landed in the fairway bunker, and his sand wedge didn’t get him out of the sand. With a risky, last-ditch approach to getting back on track, his next try from the bunker splashed into water short and to the left of the green – instead of a safer play to the right. After the fall, Piercy hit in the rough. Then his next attempt stopped 3 inches from the cut.

It was the fourth time in six tries that Piercy had held or shared the lead in all three rounds and failed to win the tournament.

Grillo, the Argentine who tied for second at the John Deere Classic three weeks ago, also had a triple bogie which weighed heavy at the end, a 7 on No. 7. There were 303 balls in the water this week, the most of the entire season on tour.

“Tony pushed the gas really hard, and he made it really difficult for everyone,” Grillo said.

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