Tony Finau tees off today just before 4 P.M. at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Links, in Pebble Beach, California. Finau will take on defending champion Brooks Koepka and a highly competitive field, in what will be his first major championship at the highly touted golf course.
Currently ranked No. 14 in the world and sixteenth among money leaders as of the start of the U.S. Open, Finau will not only be competing but has also been making time to greet diehard golf fans at the American Express Card Members lounge. Finau says that talking golf swings, drivers and putters, as well as favorite golf memories is one of the things he enjoys most.
Last week I was lucky enough to speak by phone to Finau, where he shared some perspective on golf, where he likes to play, and who first inspired him.
Andy Frye: Every pro golfer has their favorite golf course. What’s yours?
Tony Finau: I enjoy playing in major championships, and Pebble Beach is an iconic venue. Anyone, even if they don’t closely follow golf, knows Pebble Beach is historic because of the great names that have played and won there, the beautiful views and the excellent course itself. Pebble Beach is probably the one for me and it’s great to be playing my first championship there.
I’m a west coast guy, and it’s cool to have a major championship on the west coast again.
AF: You’ve played in the Ryder Cup and elsewhere outside the U.S. What is playing competitive golf abroad like?
Finau: It was really great fun for me to be a part of the Ryder Cup team and to rub shoulders with some of the greats of the game, like Tiger (Woods) and Phil (Mickelson), icons of mine growing up. And to be able to represent your country— there’s something powerful in that.
Also, remember that Scotland is the home of golf. In Europe overall there are so many different types of golf courses to play.
AF: Your cousin Jabari Parker is a top NBA player. You guys talk sports at all?
Finau: We don’t talk or see each other as much as some might think, but he just texted me last night about some event we’re planning to be at together. But we might be getting together soon to hang out and shoot some hoops. I have a lot of respect for him as an athlete and as the person he is.
AF: You also like talking with golf fans. Tell us about that and what you talk about.
Finau: Well, the fans and the sponsors are really what drive the events. Not only do we get to play for the money we have, but also the game grows though them. It’s cool just to be able to meet them and interact with them.
I get all kinds of questions. Of course, fans want to know what we talk about between shots and what it’s like to play with Tiger. But others ask me, off the course, what my routine is.
AF: Which golfer most has most inspired you early on and throughout your career?
Finau: My brother and my dad are a huge reason why I play. My younger brother Gipper played before I did and he was the first one who inspired me to play. That, and my dad, who was my coach.
Then as I grew up and started watching golf, it was Tiger Woods. Tiger was the guy—the one who was the one to watch, the one who made golf look cool, all while making golf look fun.