Tony Finau first held up a trophy, victorious on the PGA Tour, in 2016 at the Puerto Rico Open at Coco Beach. Since that win, Finau has had 40 top-10 finishes, eight second-place finishes and five years without holding another trophy.
Only Louis Oosthuizen has had more runner-up finishes (11) than Finau among active players.
Finau broke that streak on Monday when he won the Northern Trust in a playoff against Cameron Smith after a rain-filled weekend that delayed his victory an extra day. For a moment, after hitting his approach in the bunker on 18 to close regulation, and after Smith had back-to-back birdies coming into the final hole, it seemed as though Finau might continue the trend and add to his rolling stat of runner-up finishes.
"All I know is I'm a lot different player than I was then," Finau said after the tournament. "I'm a lot better player and I feel like it's been a long time coming, but I also feel like you have to earn everything out here. Nothing's given to you and I was able to earn this win, and you know, hopefully the future continues to be bright."
Finau said he's playing great golf right now -- and he's not wrong. He has had seven top-10 finishes this season alone, including two times finishing second.
Relief personified. pic.twitter.com/sC8QddZeU8— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) August 23, 2021
Over the past 1,975 days since his last win, there have been prognostications that he'd be one of the next great players in golf. Those talks eventually turned into questions about whether or not he had what it takes to close out tournaments.
It went from speculation about how many tournaments Finau would win to if he would win again. It's a lonely road, and negative thoughts can easily creep into the mind about whether or not success will come again.
But a win can easily change those thoughts.
"This is extremely special. I thought my first one was going to be my most important, but I actually think this one is," Finau said. "It validates the first one, because of how long I've had to wait. I'm a totally different player because of how long I've had to wait. Nothing has come easy for me."
Finau said the biggest factor behind this win and the perseverance throughout his career is that he never gave up on himself. He never let the doubts get the best of him, and he pushed ahead with the support of his family and team around him.
"It's hard losing and it's hard losing in front of the world," he said. "I've done it already a couple times this year. That made me more hungry. That's what it does. If it doesn't discourage you, it makes you more hungry. You guys keep telling me, when are you going to win again? It makes me more hungry. It all equals to now it's time for me to win again. I hope I don't have to wait another five years for the next one."
Time can be a great teacher. Seeing success and feeling the emotions and happiness that come with winning while then spending 143 starts without that feeling again can cause a person to either give in or force him to adapt.
"I worked my tail off to put myself in this position again," Finau said Monday after a back-nine 30 got him into position. "I continue to believe in myself. That's the bottom line."
Whether this victory propels him to more wins or mimics his first win and its aftermath, only time will tell. But for now, Finau got to hoist a trophy again and is reminded of how it feels to experience success on the PGA Tour.
"I've been thinking about that walk up 18 for a long time," Finau said. "It's been years. It's nice to finally have that and now put this second win behind me."