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April 13, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Ladies and gentlemen, we would like to welcome Tony Finau to the media room. Tony carded an 8‑under 64 with birdies on 1, 3, 6, 13, 15 and an eagle on 8. It was an amazing second shot on 8, Tony. Can you talk us through that.
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I had a pretty good number. It was about 260 yards all the way to the pin, 230 to the front, which is a comfortable 4‑iron for me if I drew it. I hit a really good shot, but I didn't think it was going to be, you know, a foot from the hole. I didn't really hear a lot of roars or anything.
But as I walked up, it was quite funny, I saw Rickie coming down 9, and I look over and he's kind of like giving me a thumbs‑up. And I'm like, Not bad, huh? He said, Yeah, well, you could have made it.
It was a great start, and after the start it was nice to be able to make a 3 there.
THE MODERATOR: Fantastic. You also tied the record for the low first nine going out in 30. Can you tell us how you felt on the course today and how you plan to continue that momentum going into Sunday.
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I felt good. I'm driving the ball nicely, and on this golf course, I can attack the golf course if I'm hitting my driver well, and I have been thus far. I felt good. Going into today, I felt calm and comfortable, and I think my score showed that.
But I got off to a nice start. I was happy to make birdie on 1. I hit two great shots and a putt that just barely lipped in on 1 and was kind of off to the races there. I drove it nicely and a couple tap‑ins on 2 and 3 and I was just kind of on my way, I kind of got in that zone. And looked up at the leaderboard, and I knew I just needed to‑‑ I was well in front of the leaders, I needed to keep making birdies, because I knew they were going to have a lot of opportunities, the guys that were playing well.
I was happy to post the number I did, but more than anything, just keep my foot on the gas pedal and not let off, because looking at the scores now, I may not even be leading after today, but I'm well in contention, and I'm happy about that.
Q. For someone who was motivated to take up the game after watching Tiger win here in'97, what does it mean to you to have him on your heels, and what would it mean, that you could possibly be grouped with him tomorrow?
TONY FINAU: Oh, man, it would be an unbelievable thing for me, and something that I've dreamed of for a long time. As a kid, I always wanted to compete against him and have the opportunity to‑‑ you know, I've dreamed of playing in the final group with him in a major championship, and it would be quite a cool thing for me if I were to play with him tomorrow in the final group of a Masters. It would be a dream come true for me.
Q. You mentioned yesterday that you felt you had a low round in you this weekend, but that you needed the putter to come together. Can you talk about how it came together today and especially some of those putts on the back nine coming down the stretch?
TONY FINAU: That was huge. The putts I made on 13 and 15 were huge. You know, that up‑and‑down on 13 today was pretty special. I had a lie where the ball was way above my feet on my second shot after a good drive, and that's just how that hole Is. I ended up double crossing and hitting a hard pull, so I'm on the downslope of this bunker. Hit a great bunker shot to 12 feet and dripped that in. The putter came through today when I needed it, and a couple par saves coming in as well that were huge. You have to putt well to win major championships. I know that from experience in the past, putting myself in contention, and I was able to do that today, and I need the putter to be working tomorrow.
Q. Does the early start help at all with just not having to sit around all day, and what is that morning going to look like in the Finau household?
TONY FINAU: Well, it's been some pretty late nights in our house. It's probably going to look a little earlier tonight. We'll get some rest a little earlier.
9:30, you know, if I'm in the final group, it would be a 9:30 start. I do think that's nice, not waiting around till three clock to tee off kind of twiddling your thumbs, if you work out, eat, there's a lot going on there.
I remember when I was in the final group last year at Shinnecock, just how much time, it was like the longest day of my life and I still hadn't teed off. I do think that is pretty cool, but no matter what, when it's time to tee it up tomorrow, there's going to be guys on our heels, and we're going to‑‑ I'm going to have to play good golf tomorrow no matter what time I play.
Q. What are you going to do with your vase and your goblets from today, that you win for the low round and the eagle?
TONY FINAU: Oh, the vase. I'm going to put it in my trophy case, no question. I actually mentioned that to my caddie after I made eagle. I was disappointed last year, I had some eagle looks but didn't make an eagle. I obviously made the eagle in the Par‑3 Contest but not during the event. I was quite happy to tap‑in an eagle this will week and know I've at least got one under my belt, won one crystal.
Q. Since the Official World Golf Rankings began in 1986, the average winner of the Masters has been ranked 15.3, and you're currently ranked 15th. What do you think about that and omens in general?
TONY FINAU: Coincidence, maybe. That's quite funny. I never heard that. Never really thought about that. I'm not really superstitious or anything like that. That would be quite funny if I won tomorrow. Being the 15th ranked player, I wouldn't move the number. It would stay at 15 for next year.
Q. What's it like when you're playing so well, in the lead and Tiger is on the course drawing so much attention? Is it nice to have the circus not be there, or are you in the zone and you don't notice?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I didn't notice too much. I would say I was in the zone today, just staying in my lane, trying to do my thing and just trying to finish as high as I could possible; as low as I could, you know what I'm saying, on the leaderboard, as high as I could and the lowest number I could shoot.
But it's always a great tournament whenever Tiger is in the mix, and he's 100 percent in the mix right now. So it's going to be a Masters to remember, I know that for sure.
Q. Conditions were good today and a lot of guys went pretty low. Tomorrow that could be pretty different, windy, the storm is coming, everything like that. How do you expect the course to play, and does it alter your strategy at all going into the round?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I think weather always has something to do with how you play the golf course, whether it's wet or it starts to blow and it rains, it's going to turn into a whole different golf course. It's all weather dependent.
Hopefully with the tee times moving up we're able to play some clean golf so that weather doesn't play too much of a factor. That would be nice, but if‑‑ you know, if it starts to blow, starts to get windy, starts to rain, the golf course is an animal to play when it's in tough conditions. You know, I'm going to have to have my best stuff no matter what.
Q. How nice was it to stand up on the first tee on Thursday with two good ankles, and how much do you think the experience at Shinnecock might help you?
TONY FINAU: It felt great standing on the tee feeling fully healthy this year. I know it's a golf course that I like, and playing healthy this year is nice.
Last year was awkward for me, just getting through those first couple rounds, just because the way I felt. Mentally I think it helped because it took a lot of the pressure off, but you never want to be in physical pain when you're playing at a high level. As well as I played last year, I didn't have a chance to really win.
As far as the experience at Shinnecock, it's going to help because I've been in that‑‑ I've been in that situation before. Last year I had the lead going into the final round of the U.S. Open, and I took a run at it towards the end. I feel like I've learned some things about that finish that I can apply to tomorrow, and hopefully do better.
Q. Your heritage is unique on the PGA TOUR. How much did you consider that with being in the final group at Shinnecock last year, and have you given any consideration to what impact it would be‑‑
TONY FINAU: One more time, please, Phil.
Q. Your heritage, how much of a part of that is you, and how much will you draw on that for your performance tomorrow?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, my heritage is a huge part of who I am, my culture, being Tongan and Samoan, and it's just a huge part of who I am. A lot of very faithful people and very driven people, and I think I'm very much that way.
And you know, I think that helps me. We're also very relaxed and we enjoy ourselves. I like to have a good time on the golf course, and not get too stressed out. I think some of those qualities can help you in a major championship when you're in contention, being relaxed and having fun in the atmosphere is a cool thing.
Q. What are the distinct childhood memories of Tiger, and what was the occasion of you first meeting him?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, so the first golf tournament I ever watched was the '97 Masters. Just watching Tiger dominate the way that he did was very inspiring for me for some reason as a kid, and I took up the game the summer of'97, I think in huge part because of Tiger, and also because my brother and my dad had already been started and playing.
But Tiger is a huge, huge inspiration and influence on me, and that '97 Masters meant a lot.
Q. How about meeting him?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, so the first time I met him was at The Woods Jupiter, In Jupiter, Florida, his restaurant. My rookie year, he invited all the Nike athletes to a dinner there on him to meet him, and that was really cool for me. I spent a couple hours sitting next to him. It wasn't just me; all the other Nike athletes, but it was a special night and one that I'll remember for a long time, just because of who he was for me growing up. He was my golfing idol.
Q. The only time you've been paired with Tiger was earlier this year in Torrey Pines, rounds one and two. What was that like and what do you anticipate tomorrow?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, it was a great experience. Going to be quite different tomorrow, if we are paired together, than that, just because that's the first round for both of us on the year.
But any time you get to play with Tiger, I enjoy it. You know, the first time I ever played with him was at a practice round at TOUR Championship last year at East Lake, and you know, for the most part, I stay in my lane and do my thing no matter who I'm playing with, but there's always a Tiger effect, no matter who you are. I'm not going to act like it's not there, because I know that it is, but I'm going to relish, relish in the moment and enjoy being in contention at a Masters, and hopefully not my last one.
Q. I know you've had some great finishes the last three years and you're looking to add to the trophy case. To give us a visual, can you tell us what it looks like and do you leave a lot of room to add a lot of trophies here in the future?
TONY FINAU: Plenty of room for a green jacket, I know that.
It's cool. I've got wooden cases all over my trophy room, and that's got some cool stuff. I think my 2002 Junior World championship is up there, that's something that I'm really proud of. At 12 years old, I won that, and that's kind of one of the turning points of my junior career where I knew I could play professional golf.
You know, winning the State Amateur was a cool thing, winning my first PGA TOUR event. So a lot of cool memories I have up there and I think it's great for me and really great for anybody. Sometimes when you're in a slump or not playing well, you remind yourself, you're pretty good at this game when you walk into a room like that.
Q. You're killing the par 5s this week, 10‑under par over the three days, and there's obviously something you're very comfortable with on those holes. What makes you so confident on those?
TONY FINAU: Just driving the ball well. Hitting it with length and hitting it in the fairway, they are very reachable for me. I'm hitting mid‑ to long‑irons into all of them, and so I've been able to hit the fairway, I think for the most part. I think I've only missed two fairways on the par 5s this week, and that was yesterday on 13 and 15. You have to drive it in the fairway. I told myself the beginning of this week, I talked to my coach, my caddie, our biggest game plan for the week was to take care of the par 5s.
History always tells us the guys that play the par 5s well are the ones that go on to win the tournament and that go on to be in contention. Par 5s, that's where my advantage is, anyway, but in emphasis here at Augusta National, you have to play the par 5s well to win.
Q. What's the background of the high‑top shoe you wore on Wednesday?
TONY FINAU: Nike reached out to me and it was kind of mutual. We wanted to do something to, if you will, celebrate or commemorate the Par3 incident last year. I felt like if you can't laugh at yourself in something like that, then I think you're doing it all wrong.
I thought it was quite funny after the fact, everything that happened, you know, celebrating a hole‑in‑one and ruining my ankle for a few months. So we wanted to do a mockumentary, and I was all on board, so we put together this little video. I went to Portland and did the video. I think most of you guys have probably seen it.
So they came out with the shoe. I told them, Hey, why don't we make it really high, and only for one foot, which is my left. So we just kept adding things on, and it ended up being what it is. It's a one‑for‑one shoe, it's the only one that they made, and it is pretty cool to have a shoe.
Q. Why do you think it is that your generation or this generation of golfers seem less intimidated by Tiger than it was the first time around for him?
TONY FINAU: Good question. Tiger, the way I look at it, Tiger taught us how to compete. Meaning, you shouldn't jeer (ph) anybody. Tiger, we're the aftermath, if you will, of the Tiger effect, and he dominated and watching him growing up, it was like he was scared of nobody. So I think a lot of us try to be like him and try to be that way to where nothing on the golf course can scare us and our skills can showcase.
I think there's always still a Tiger effect because it is Tiger, but it's a different era, and he's playing against a different‑‑ just a different generation. He's playing against guys that he kind of bred. We were watching him as teenagers through high school and watching him dominate and all of us relish now having a chance to compete against him.
Q. Curious if there was a moment in the last, whenever it was, when you felt you were ready for this situation right now, and that you belong; with all your immense talent, was there a time where you said, okay, I can be there?
TONY FINAU: Yeah, I've always believed it. I guess when I was on The Ryder Cup Team, and I surrounded myself with the other 11 guys and our captains, and you know, being in that locker room, it gave me a sense of confidence I think that I feel like I'm a confident person, but that gave me an extra sense of confidence, and just extra confidence.
So I think that's when I told myself, not only do you belong in here, but you can become a major champion like most of the guys in here.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Tony, and congratulations on a great round today.
TONY FINAU: Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports