Tony Finau simply pulled a role reversal on top-ranked Jon Rahm of Spain.
Finau, who finished second to Rahm in the Mexico Open at Vidanta last season, closed with a bogey-free 65 and this time defeated the Spaniard by three strokes at Vidanta Vallarta Golf Course in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
“It feels amazing because Rahm is the top player in the world and it feels great to beat him,” said Finau, who claimed his sixth PGA Tour victory and seventh as a professional. “He’s so good that I didn’t know for sure until we hit the last green here that I had it won. You never know what great shot he’s going to come up with so you have to stay on your toes.
“This game is so crazy that you never know that you’ve won the golf tournament until it’s absolutely over. It was nice to have a little bit of a cushion coming down the stretch and I was confident, but again, you never know exactly what’s going to happen.
“Rahmbo is the best. I knew I was going to have my hands full to the end.”
Finau, who has won four times in the last year, made three of his five birdies in the first seven holes en route to posting a winning score of 24-under 260. Just as critical were clutch par saves he made on the fifth, eighth, 16th and 17th holes.
Rahm, who has claimed seven of his 20 pro titles around the world in the last year, remained close with four birdies in 16 holes before making his lone bogey at No. 17, and added another birdie on the last hole in a 67.
“It was a day where I didn’t do much wrong, but I didn’t do much right either,” said Rahm, the reigning Masters champion. “It is what it is. I’m still proud to come back after the year that has been and put on a show, and have a good defense of the title.
“Even when I made the birdie on No. 15, I knew if I could somehow play Nos. 16 and 17 well, there was a chance there. The first five holes, with the tee shots I hit and where I was, I should have given myself at least a couple putts inside 12 feet for birdie. I just never really did. Then there were a couple holes when I had the chance again, like No. 8, and I didn’t take advantage of it.
“I think I did what I needed to do off the tee and I just didn’t capitalize on a couple of those opportunities. It’s not terrible, it’s still a 67, it’s four-under-par. But I wish it could have been better.”
Brandon Wu of Danville and Stanford sank a 44-foot eagle putt at No. 6, but also had a double-bogey 6 on the 11th hole in a 68 and was five shots back in solo third, followed one more back in fourth by rookie Akshay Bhatia of Northridge, who birdied the last hole for a 70.
Emiliano Grillo of Argentina made only one bogey in a 65 and wound up eight behind in a tie for fifth with Eric Cole of Palm Springs, who posted a bogey-free 66, and Austin Smotherman, the first-round leader at 63, who birdied the last hole for a 67; while Cameron Camp of Sacramento had five birdies on the front nine and finished 10 strokes back after another 67 to tie for eighth with Ben Taylor, who birdied the last three holes on the front nine en route to another 67.
Patrick Rodgers of Stanford birdied the first three holes and the last two in a 64 to tie for 10th, 11 down, with Alejandro Tosti of Argentina, who eagled the sixth and 18th holes in another 64; Harry Hall, who made four straight birdies on the front nine in a 65; Beau Hossler of Rancho Santa Margarita, who had three straight birdies on the front nine and closed with an eagle for 66, and Joseph Bramlett of Saratoga and Stanford, who birdied four of the first seven holes in a bogey-free 66.
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