PHILADELPHIA (AFP) – Tony Finau, a long-driving American golfer of Tongan and Samoan heritage, was named to the final vacant spot on the US Ryder Cup team on Monday by US captain Jim Furyk.
The 28-year-old from Utah completes the 12-man American lineup that will defend the trophy against Europe in the biennial team golf showdown on September 28-30 at Le Golf National in France.
Finau, who won his only US PGA title at the 2016 Puerto Rico Open, had three top-10 major finishes this season – sharing 10th at the Masters, taking fifth at the US Open and sharing ninth at the British Open.
“We were looking for guys who had a great body of work all year. He had 11 top 10s. Played good in big moments. He had three top 10s in majors,” Furyk said.
Finau boosted his chances by joining a group that played at Le Golf National earlier this year.
“I liked what I saw,” Furyk said of Finau’s play on the French host layout. “He had a lot of support from our vice captains. Ultimately, I thought he was our best pick.”
The Americans, who haven’t won in Europe since 1993, figure to add power and endurance with Finau, who filmed a message of reaction from a plane as he left Monday’s final round of the PGA BMW Championship for a charity event in Utah.
“I’m so excited to be on the Ryder Cup team,” Finau said. “I can’t wait to get to Paris.”
Finau played alongside Furyk for the first two rounds at last month’s PGA Championship. The third man in that group was Xander Schauffele, who was seen as Finau’s most likely rival for Furyk’s final pick.
Schauffele made a run at the BMW title but came up short, settling for a share of third after a 63-64 (13-under-par) start. Finau shared eighth after a closing 65.
Tiger Woods, a 14-time major champion back on form after spinal fusion surgery, was named a captain’s pick last week along with left-hander Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau.
Eight other US players made the roster after last month’s PGA Championship after a two-year qualifying period – Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed, Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Webb Simpson, Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson.
Reed is the reigning Masters champion while Koepka won his second consecutive US Open title in June and followed by taking the PGA last month for his third major crown.