Finau holds off Rahm to take Mexico Open for 6th career win

Tony Finau of the United Statesm, left, and Jon Rahm of Spain walk on the first fairway during the Mexico Open golf tournament's final round in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, Sunday, April 30, 2023. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)

VALLARTA, Mexico (AP) — Tony Finau and Jon Rahm play enough golf together away from the PGA Tour that Finau thinks it has only made him a better player.

He showed that Sunday in the Mexico Open at Rahm’s expense.

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Finau was expecting a tough test against Rahm, the Masters champion and No. 1 player in the world. Equipped with a two-shot lead, Finau played bogey-free for a 5-under 66 and never gave Rahm or anyone else much of a chance.

He wound up winning by three shots for his fourth PGA Tour title in the last nine months.

“Any time you can battle with a guy like Jon Rahm who’s in the form that he was and come out on top, it makes me feel good,” Finau said. “Rahm is a good friend of mine, we practice quite a bit together, so having Rahmbo as like a sparring partner for me has only made me better. And I hope he can say the same.”

Finau earned a small measure of redemption at Vallarta Vidanta, where last year he finished runner-up to Rahm by one shot.

“Obviously I wanted to win, but it’s a reminder that everybody out here is a great player,” Rahm said. “Tony came out with a two-shot lead and played fantastic golf. I feel like had I been able to pressure him a little more, we would have seen more birdies from Tony.”

Finau finished at 24-under 260. Turns out Rahm wasn’t his biggest threat.

Brandon Wu, also a runner-up last year, holed a 45-foot eagle putt on the par-5 sixth hole and made a short birdie on the next hole to briefly tie for the lead. Finau answered with a birdie on the seventh, and then Wu fell back with a bogey from the bunker on No. 8 and a tee shot into the water on the 10th that led to double bogey.

“Just a few too many loose swings,” Wu said after a 68 to finish third. “Satisfied with how I went today. I’m glad I gave myself a chance through nine holes.”

Rahm closed with a 67 and certainly had his chances. He was three behind Finau at the turn, but failed to birdie two of the par 5s with a poor drive on the 12th and a poor approach on the 14th that kept him from reasonable birdie chances.

“It was a day where I didn’t do much wrong, but I didn’t do much right, either,” he said.

The Spaniard’s last hope was on the 16th hole. Finau hit his approach into the bunker and Rahm hit a 7-iron into the same bunker. Both made par, and at that point, Rahm simply ran out of holes.

“I feel like if I hit that second shot on 16 on the green and give myself a real look at birdie, Tony’s up-and-down gets significantly more difficult,” Rahm said.

Akshay Bhatia, the 21-year-old who has special temporary membership, faded to a 70 and finished fourth.

Finau now has two victories this season — his other was in the Houston Open last fall — to join Rahm, Scottie Scheffler and Max Homa as the only multiple winners on tour this season.

Finau’s sixth career PGA Tour victory was worth $1,386,000. He also moved to No. 11 in the world.

Finau did his best work on the front nine. He left a bunker shot in the sand on the sixth hole and managed to get up-and-down for par. On the eighth hole, another bunker shot from a tough lie didn’t quite reach the green, and he holed a 15-foot putt from the fringe for par.

Rahm was playing for the second time in three weeks since winning the Masters. He is skipping the Wells Fargo Championship — his one opt-out from elevated events with a $20 million purse — and will have a two-week break going into the PGA Championship.

Finau, who went more than five years between his first and second wins on the PGA Tour, now has multiple wins in back-to-back seasons.

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