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Full Swing: Tony Finau on the balance between family and the PGA TOUR

It is perhaps harder to win in golf than any other sport. 

Most sports are head-to-head between a team or player, and while you might not necessarily win tournaments, you can win individual matches. In other sports, you might not win championships, but you can win individual races.

In golf, week after week, there are more than 150 losers. It could explain why Brooks Koepka left the PGA TOUR for LIV. We see in episode two of Full Swing, Win or Go Home, that merely contending in tournaments wasn’t enough for him. He’d reached a stage where anything below first place was a failure. It’s an unsustainable standard in golf.

In episode six, Don’t Get Bitter, Get Better, we see Tony Finau, arguably the PGA TOUR’s biggest underachiever prior to last season, at the Masters, with his daughter asking her mother if daddy is winning. It’s a question that 99% of the time will yield a negative answer, particularly for Finau, who had remarkably never won a full-field PGA TOUR event until the summer of 2022.

Finau’s family had to deal with the passing of his wife’s mother, prompting the decision for Finau to bring his family on tour with him, as he attempts to strike the balance between being a top-level PGA TOUR professional and a devoted family man.

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Finau lost his own mother, furthering triggering his desire to be with his wife, knowing what she was going through, and we see on more than one occasion how emotional he still is over her passing.

Every single person is motivated by different things. In episode two, we see how Brooks Koepka is motivated purely by majors; in episode four we see how Joel Dahmen is happy to be the middle-of-the-road golfer, able to provide for his family; in episode eight, we see how Rory McIlroy is motivated by his desire to leave a legacy. 

For Finau, his biggest motivation appears to be being the best father and husband he can be, while giving his family the best life they can have, maximising his potential as a golfer, but he seems unable to fully throw himself into one without it being to the detriment of the other. 

He talks about how goals have shifted from being able to financially provide for his family, to being more focused on winning, but it seems his biggest goal is being there for his wife through a difficult period in her life, and admits his golf game may have suffered for that.

By contrast, we see Collin Morikawa, and his approach to the game; his desire for perfection, and his need for – by his own admission – selfishness.

Coming from nowhere to win his first major in just his third start at the 2020 PGA Championship, Morikawa then won The Open at his first attempt. He doesn’t take much time to reflect on his achievements; he has a voracious appetite to win as much as he possibly can. 

“You win two majors in your first eight tries, I want them all,” he says. 

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There is something admirable in Morikawa’s attitude; that his career comes first and will for as long as he’s got the capabilities to be an elite golfer. It’s already paid dividends. He’s halfway towards the Grand Slam, and there’s no reason to think he won’t win all four. 

But there is something equally admirable in Finau’s attitude and his devotion to his wife and family. He’s made tens of millions of dollars on the course, he’s certainly there for his family, and if it was the expense of wins, he seemed to be at peace with that.

But of course, after years of waiting, Finau would come from behind not just to win the 3M Open, but to do it with his family. 

If there was one lingering criticism after the win, it was that the win wasn’t in the PGA TOUR’s strongest field, but the following week, Finau would achieve the super-rare back-to-back wins on the PGA TOUR, and this time he beat the likes of Patrick Cantlay, Tom Kim, Will Zalatoris and Max Homa.

bet365 are the Official Betting Operator of the PGA TOUR, and you can watch all eight episodes of Full Swing exclusively on Netflix from 15th February.

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