Golf: Finau wins play-off to capture marathon Northern Trust

Tony Finau of the United States on the way to winning the Northern Trust title in New Jersey, his first PGA Tour victory since 2016. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK (AFP) - Tony Finau snapped a lengthy title drought, outlasting Cameron Smith in a play-off at the Northern Trust which needed a Monday (Aug 23) finish and an extra hole to determine the winner.

This is the second win of the American's career and comes 1,975 days and 143 starts since Finau's first PGA Tour victory at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open.

"It feels amazing. I knew I had to get to 20 under. That was my goal starting the day. I was able to do it," he said of the biggest win of his pro career, which began in 2007.

Finau cruised to victory by making par on the extra hole in the first event of the FedEx Cup play-offs at the Liberty National Golf Course in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Organisers had to move the final round to Monday after 23cm of rain fell on the golf course over the weekend. That made for difficult conditions in the final round as shots plugged in the ground and sometimes landed in puddles that dotted the course.

The final round was also delayed one hour because of bad weather.

Finau closed with a six-under 65 in regulation and 20-under 264 total, then carried his strong play over into the play-off.

The same couldn't be said for his Aussie opponent Smith who virtually handed the win to Finau on par-four 18 extra holes by smoking his tee shot out of bounds. Smith had to hit a second tee shot but there was no turning back with the way Finau was playing.

Finau went birdie-eagle-birdie-par-birdie during a five-hole stretch on the back nine, beginning with the par-four 12th hole.

Finau also had to leapfrog over Jon Rahm by shooting a 30 on the back nine. Rahm appeared to be on his way to victory but made two bogeys in his final four holes to drop out of contention. Rahm shot 69 to finish at 18-under, two strokes back of the leaders.

"It took everything I had," Finau said. "I was chasing down the best player in the world (Rahm). Jon is a good friend, but I know what type of game he has. He's not going to let up on a lead.

"So I knew I was going to have to catch him and eventually pass him, and Cam was playing well. I gave it everything I had." Smith put himself in contention with consecutive birdies at No. 16 and 17 before he parred the closing hole.

"Just a terrible swing, mate. Just a mishit, and in these conditions, you can't mishit the ball. My driver has cost me a few tournaments this year," Smith said of his woeful tee shot.

The Northern Trust featured the top 125 players in the FedEx Cup standings. The top 70 from this event will move on to the BMW Championship, which tees off in Maryland on Thursday.

Rahm finished alone in third while Justin Thomas (70), Swede Alex Noren (66) and Tom Hoge (69) tied for fourth at 15 under, five strokes back of the leaders.

Patrick Reed, who won here the last time the tournament was played on this course in 2019, withdrew from the event with an injured ankle and then ended up in a hospital in Houston with pneumonia.

He was diagnosed with bilateral interstitial pneumonia, which is sometimes referred to as double pneumonia because it affects both lungs.

"I'm on the road to recovery," Reed said in a statement. "Once I'm cleared from the doctors, I look forward to returning. I wish you all the best and I can't wait to get back out there."

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